Let’s hear it for The Shepherd Centre

“Hear, hear”.  It’s the Parliamentary interjection confirming your approval with what is being said.

Those words have emerged from the writer’s mouth many a time without reflecting on whether everyone can, in fact, hear.  Sure, having an aunt and a godmother who were deaf provided some insight but not as profoundly as a recent visit to The Shepherd Centre in Sydney.

The Centre self describes its purpose as “Giving deaf children a voice”.

The visit was prompted by a family – Shannon and Sarah Wells – who detailed The Shepherd Centre’s assistance to their son Flynn who required regular travel to Sydney.  The family were fortunate because they could afford the expense of travel.

Named after Dr Bruce Shepherd, the Centre has operated for over 50 years.  Dr Shepherd has two children with hearing impairment and he saw the need for the Centre which he established all those years ago.  It operates from eight sites around Australia with outreach services including to Tasmania.

Wouldn’t it be good if we could have a combination of philanthropic and government will to establish a centre or two in Tasmania to assist our 400 children (0-14 years) dealing with hearing loss.  That would provide a genuine happy new year to many parents and their hearing impaired children.

Who knew that hearing loss is the most common disability among children in the western world?  And here in Tasmania, only 10% of the more than 400 hearing impaired children are receiving specialist services.  (Even of those qualifying under the National Disability Insurance Scheme only one third are receiving specialist services.)

Put another way – a massive 90% of children (0-14 years) with hearing loss in Tasmania are not getting the essential support they need for a better life.

The support that is potentially available but not currently available places our young at risk of significant delays with language, development, literacy and social skills, as well as social and emotional isolation.

It makes sense that the earlier a child is able to access the right supports, the better the outcome, meaning a pathway for them to thrive and reach their full potential in life.  Hence the need for early intervention which The Shepherd Centre specialises in.

The vast majority of the beneficiaries of The Shepherd Centre go on to attend mainstream schools with listening and spoken language skills on par with their hearing peers.  It’s so doable, so achievable.

This wonderful, life-changing service should not be denied to our Tasmanian children.  Some Tasmanian families and children have advantaged themselves through The Shepherd Centre’s On-line Telehealth system and other outreach services making the Centre the largest provider of specialised services in our State.

This restricted access, whilst clearly better than nothing, is not the same as purpose-built facilities which would revolutionise the lives of many of our young Tasmanians.

We need $2.5m to establish such a service here in Tasmania in two physical facilities and presences – Launceston and Hobart.

The buildings would provide the necessary audio booth, therapy rooms, meeting rooms and play area together with a cochlear implant programme.

With a physical presence, The Shepherd Centre would work with our local Tasmanian organisations and services to establish high quality support for our families and children.

Annual assessments identify how children are developing in their speech (how they sound) and their language (the words they understand and use) in comparison to their hearing peers.  Information on children’s listening, social skills, play, thinking and literacy development is used by The Shepherd Centre team to guide individualised services.

Their teams use evidence based early intervention best practices, reviewing children’s programs every time they see them, in collaboration and partnership with their families.

Yes, the writer left The Shepherd Centre mega-impressed with what it does and what it could do four our children and their families in Tasmania.

A fifty-year reputation, which is a registered charity, NDIS approved service provider and has success stories by the thousands needs to be fully embraced by the Tasmanian community.

For information about The Shepherd Centre go to www.shepherdcentre.org.au.

Let’s bring The Shepherd Centre to Tasmania in 2022! 

Trusting we all respond in typical Tasmanian fashion and adopt the Parliamentary display of approval with a “Hear! Hear!” which goes beyond mere words but with action.

About Eric

Eric Abetz has been a Liberal Senator for Tasmania since 1994 and has served in a range of Leadership, Ministerial and Shadow Ministerial roles.

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136 Davey Street
Hobart  TAS  7001
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(03) 6224 3707

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