Celebrating a legacy of action: Bib Trumble

Just as Soundfair has grown and benefited from the established heritage and community service of its forbear, Better Hearing Australia (Vic), BHA(Vic) itself was nurtured by and grew under the care and devoted attention of Bib Trumble. Indeed, such was Bib’s energy, passion and commitment to the work of BHA(Vic) that it would not be at all fanciful to say that her legacy remains today deeply encoded in Soundfair’s DNA.

According to Bib’s son, Bill – himself a stalwart supporter and contributor to BHA(Vic) for more than 40 years – the story began in basement. BHA(Vic) volunteers used to meet in a rented basement, which was an inhospitable and unremarkable space. However, it was this basement’s very lacking characteristics that inspired Bib to get to work, determined to raise enough money to buy a proper home for BHA(Vic).

As Bill tells it, throughout her life, Bib was exceptional at creating and maintaining connection. Having developed age-related hearing loss in mid-life, Bib was determined that this minor inconvenience was not going to prevent her from keeping up with old friends or making new ones. 

With a clear goal in sight – raise the funds necessary to put a roof over BHA(Vic) – Bib got busy tapping her extensive network, from old school pals to friends made while holidaying in Sorento. Bib’s call to action was compelling as she set about catalysing change, one conversation at a time. 

Bill relates that being with Bib was not always easy, as she herself recognised, saying that there were times that she knew she should keep quiet to keep the peace, but if she saw something she didn’t like, she just had to say something. To that end, Bib was very much aligned with the famous quote from civil rights activist John Lewis “Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” It’s striking that during the transformation from BHA(Vic) to Soundfair, the rallying message was: make some noise for hearing equality. Surely, this has echoes of Bib’s own approach, which is something Soundfair is proud to continue.

Bib’s tireless fundraising was very successful and, having roped her solicitor son Bill in to help, BHA(Vic) went to the auction of the property at 28 High Street Prahran with a set budget of $20,000 – a sizable sum at the time. Providentially, this was precisely the amount required to place the winning bid, although Bill still harbours a sneaking suspicion that the auctioneer was pre-briefed of their budget.

The time at 28 High Street was a productive, active and sociable one for BHA(Vic). Bill remembers dressing up as Father Christmas and, memorably, a fairy to compare the annual Christmas Crazy Auction, where members would bid on items that had been donated, but were offered as mysterious wrapped presents. Although Bill suggested this as a dare, it is not believed that anyone was ever brave enough to regift their mysterious auction present without first unwrapping it to check what they’d got.

Not one to rest on her laurels, Bib’s ambitious vision for BHA(Vic) and fundraising prowess were later instrumental in the purchase of a bigger property just across the road. And so it was that 5 High Street, on the corner of Alfred Street, became the new HQ of BHA(Vic). At the time, this required the sizeable sum of $50,000, but as Bill recounts this was about much more than buying bricks and mortar – it was seen as an investment in the establishing the future of the organisation.

When Bib died, in 2002, she left a legacy in her Will to establish an annual award to recognise an individual volunteer whose contribution to BHA(Vic) during the year has been outstanding. Previous recipients of the Bib Trumble Award over the years include Irene O’Malley, Bill Trumble, Sharon Giblett and Victoria Didenko. The Perpetual Trophy that bears their names, and those of all the other very worthy recipients, is proudly displayed in Soundfair’s new home – the Soundfair Hearing Centre, in the heart of Mount Waverley, staying true to Bib’s vision of creating a community hub.

The 20th year anniversary of the Bib Trumble award will occur in 2022. To mark this special occasion, Soundfair will relaunch the award to recognise champions of change who, like Bib, are committed to putting in the necessary work to dismantle the systemic barriers to hearing equality and to transform the experience and wellbeing of all people with hearing conditions.

In many ways, both philosophical and practical, Bib’s outstanding contribution to BHA(Vic), and therefore Soundfair, continues to inspire our work to this day. Soundfair honours and thanks the Trumble family for their commitment to advocating for a fair world where people with hearing conditions, particularly the most vulnerable, don’t face barriers to connection and participation.

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