On Saturday 28 January, adventurer Tom Dunn will start his epic journey, Stand Up Paddle Boarding Australia’s longest continuous waterway spanning 5 rivers across 4 states in 3 months – and he needs your support! Tom’s 3,600km journey will begin with a launch in Warwick, Queensland, and end at the Murray mouth in South Australia.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding for Deaf Children Australia, or SUP4DCA, aims to raise $60,000 to support children and young people who are deaf and hard of hearing and living in rural and remote areas. These children and their families often need to travel to major cities in order to seek services such as educational support, developing Auslan skills (Australian sign language) as well as other fundamental learning skills. These trips can be both timely and costly for their families.
This journey has been inspired by Tom’s younger sister Cate who was diagnosed as profoundly deaf at birth and has grown up with just a maximum of 12 per cent of hearing in her good ear. As Tom says, their parents Pat and Jane never took a backwards step providing Cate with every opportunity she needed to reach her potential.
Cate has shared with us some of the challenges she has experienced growing up deaf in a rural area. Look out for Cate’s Auslan message which will also be available soon.
Cate’s Experiences: “Many of us are isolated in hearing environments”
“My name is Cate Dunn. I’ve been profoundly deaf since birth and have lived in the rural country town of Horsham, four and a half hours from Melbourne’s CBD, for most of my life. Growing up in a hearing family and community has had its challenges and mine were best case scenarios compared to the reality of the majority of young deaf people in rural and remote areas.
The themes of “deaf hardship” and the challenges we face as young people in rural and remote areas are often met with sympathy rather than acknowledgement and the effort to do something about it.
I remember when I was a cute six-year-old saying in my loud and proud voice that I was deaf. I definitely got myself some extra praise here and there which I learned to use to my own benefit but as I got older, the reactions I got from telling people that I was deaf was often condescending looks offering me sympathy. I was absolutely stumped and taken aback. I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal, I was just deaf. But I would soon start to question what exactly that meant.
During that same time, I started to realise I was behind in conversations, that I didn’t understand the talking. I could hear it, see it; hear sounds getting louder, see the lips moving at an incredible pace and the facial expressions correlating to the conversations. But I just couldn’t understand it.
I remember coming home from school and just feeling like everything had been drained from me. I just fell onto the couch or my bed and mindlessly watched TV, reading the words from the subtitles that appeared on the screen left to right, line after line.
But I was lucky, I was raised in an amazing family that loved, respected and supported me which I’m extremely grateful for. I was empowered with the belief that I could do anything I wanted with some good old elbow grease and hard work. So I tried with all my might; to keep up with dinner table conversations, new topics taught at school, gossip chatter between friends and advice from coaches. But when friends and family with their best interests at heart asked me, “What’s wrong? What did you miss? How can I help?” I had no idea. I truly didn’t understand what was wrong, what it was that I missed or how others could help.
Myself along with the vast majority of young deaf people in rural and remote areas face this challenge; we don’t understand. Many of us are isolated in hearing environments and are fitted with hearing aids or cochlear implants or can hear just enough to know that there is a noise, a sound near us. But we can’t identify it, we don’t understand it, we don’t understand what we missed, otherwise we wouldn’t have missed it at all.
It was extremely overwhelming for me. I hated getting new hearing aids because I’d have to relearn all the sounds but never be able to understand it. It felt like the carpet was constantly being ripped from under my feet.
I didn’t feel like I knew the world around me that I grew up in. It became very isolating. But I thought if I just put in the effort I could keep up, catch up and understand like everyone else did. We young deaf people – along with the wider community – often fail to understand that we are constantly playing catch up to an impossible goal. We need to understand practical things like where is the best spot to sit in terms of lip-reading – and how can we get extra resources of material covered in our schooling etc. We need to be empowered with knowledge and strategies through support on how to cope with the many different forms of challenges we face.”
Please support SUP4DCA and help more children and young people like Cate.
Deaf Children Australia is so grateful to the SUP4DCA team – Tom and Ashlee Garwood – who are working so hard to raise funds and awareness so other children and young people like Cate can receive the support they need. With the funds raised, DCA plans to expand the video mentoring and language services available to reach more children and young people who are currently isolated.
You might be able to volunteer, paddle alongside Tom for part of his journey, or fundraise in your community. Or you may wish to donate or sponsor the event. We have some fantastic sponsors who have been offering their support and we look forward to bringing news on these sponsors soon.
If you would like to donate, please click here.