His Excellency Major General Michael Jeffery AC CVO MC Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia

24 OCTOBER 2007

Marlena and I are delighted to welcome you to Admiralty House today.

As a proud Patron of the Hear and Say Centres in Queensland, I am very pleased to launch “Hear and Say Worldwide”.

In the course of my duties, Marlena and I have the privilege of meeting and talking to many people around Australia.

I have been emphasising as often as possible the importance of giving children the best possible start in life by focussing on the critical period from conception to five years of age, the critical formative years.

So I am keen to encourage everyone who can offer children a better start in life, whether it be by supporting good health, nutrition, education, or the supreme benefits of being loved and cherished as part of a stable family.

As we know, the ability to hear, impacts greatly on our general health and sense of wellbeing, and the ease with which we learn and communicate.

This is especially important for children, in the crucial years when they are developing their language ability and learning by interacting and communicating with the world around them.

While deafness does not preclude anyone from having a fulfilling and successful life, it is very important that deafness does not go undetected in the early years, because through the wonderful work undertaken at the Hear and Say Centres, it can be treated.

I understand more than 90 per cent of the children who attend a Centre are subsequently able to attend mainstream schools thus opening up a range of valuable education, employment and social opportunities.

The impressive success of the Hear and Say Centres in Australia owes everything to the remarkable vision and perseverance of Dimity Dornan.

For many years, Dimity has combined the roles of researcher, clinician and business manager to bring her ideas to a successful fruition.

I understand it was a Churchill fellowship to Canada back in 1992 that enabled her to learn about the techniques that underpin the work at the Hear and Say Centres.

The success of the auditory-verbal method of teaching speech and language is evident in the excellent results achieved at the Centres for hearing impaired babies and pre-schoolers.

And linked to this, the success of the business model she has adopted is evident in the increasing growth and coverage of the Hear and Say Centres. It is exciting to see this model of assistance now spreading worldwide.

The global need for hearing support is great, with estimates of around 500,000 children born each year with hearing impairment.

While there are clearly many challenges in expanding your work around the globe, we are all proud of this example of Australian excellence, once again demonstrating our capacity for innovation to the rest of the world.

And we can be doubly pleased that the work of the Hear and Say Centres takes advantage of the development of the bionic ear, by another great Australian scientist in Professor Graeme Clark.

I am pleased that we have with us today Francis Xavier, the father of a Hear and Say WorldWide child in Papua New Guinea. Francis, his wife Kila and their family, have made considerable personal sacrifices to ensure that their daughter Hannah–Lisa has been able to receive assistance from the Hear and Say team. I wish you and Hannah–Lisa every good wish for the future.

I understand the Hear and Say team are looking at spreading there good work further afield in the Asia Pacific region and to Europe and beyond.

With this sort of drive and commitment, Dimity and her team are going to make a significant difference to the health and wellbeing of children across the world.

I wish you every success with this work and it is a great pleasure to launch “Hear and Say WorldWide” on its way.