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“People always underestimate me, because of my disability. I want to show them I can do anything.”

This August marks the 33rd anniversary of a little boy, with ginger hair and piercing blue eyes, celebrating his third birthday at the Eye and Ear hospital in Melbourne. A large white bandage wrapped around his head, following the invasive surgery to implant his bionic ear. A magnet placed in his skull and electrodes placed in the cochlea, a tiny shell like bone inside the ear. The cochlea is filled with miniscule hairs that vibrate to transmit sound, but for some deaf people, these are dead or missing, and need to be replaced.

Three year old boy with red hair and fair skin, sits on his Mum's lap with a wide mouth laughing. Mum with curly red hair and fair skin smiles and wraps her arms around him

I'm in awe of the bold and brave decision our parents made to give Brett this opportunity, and equally for their bravery in showing up to the controversial conversation that followed.

Mum and Brett appeared on the Today show in 1989, where members of the deaf community openly condemned the decision, believing that it would remove Brett from being a whole member of the deaf community, while never fully integrating with the hearing community. 

Deaf actress Marlee Matlin gives an insightful perspective to the deaf community's views on the cochlear implant and deaf culture here.

Two years and countless speech therapy sessions later, at age five, Brett had only two words - No and Mum, but his comprehension was growing. This path would not be straight, but meandering, filled with relentless challenges, sprinkled with sparks of hope and achievement.

In Brett's words "I'm very grateful for my parents' decision. They have been mentally strong, ensuring I get the best care, so I can have a good quality life. They made the right decision".

"It has helped me massively, because it allows me to explore more opportunities in both the hearing and deaf world."

This Sunday, Brett will celebrate his birthday in Europe, a 6 week solo trek around Scandinavia. Once again, I'm struck with awe at this boldness and bravery - confirmation that his potential is truly limitless.

While the chef is away…

Collaborating with employment based social enterprises has been the focus of my work for the past four years, and the excitement of meeting new people in the sector never fades. This month I met with All Things Equal - a cafe in Balaclava creating employment for people with disability. I met with For Change Co - a hospitality group aiming to end youth homelessness through innovative employment programs. I encourage you to treat yourself and check out these beauties!

We have been nominated as a top four finalist in the Canon Community Grant competition, and would love your vote to help us win! This funding and equipment will allow us to create our first digital storytelling campaign, focused on people with disability in entrepreneurship and employment. Please follow the link here and vote by Friday 26th August.

We are establishing procedures to welcome NDIS participants in future, and have met with Occupational Therapists and teachers to deepen our understanding of the sector. Our conversations with more people with disability continue, and we look forward to sharing their stories in coming months. 

If there is an experienced person in your circles that you believe we should speak to, please connect with us. We would love to hear from you. 

Thanks for all your support.

Jess xx


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