My name is Sherilee. I am a Wiradjuri woman living, playing and working on Wonnarua Country. I am the Cultural Leader for NSW with Hearing Australia’s First Nations Services. Working with Hearing Australia has taught me so much about hearing impairments and allowed me to interact with others in a different way. For instance, I was at a family event once, where my uncle Russell always got pinpointed as being “nuts”. “He’s crazy, don’t talk to him, he can’t follow the conversation, just ignore him”, they would say, and poor old Uncle Russell was left sitting on the table and everyone would have a good time around him; no‑one would sit with him. This time, I actually went up to Uncle Russell and I said to him, “How about you come and sit over here with us?”. I moved him away so there was no noise bouncing off walls behind him and put him in a prime location. He was able to follow the conversation and the family members were amazed. They had no idea that something as simple as moving him would allow him to contribute to the conversation. He had a great time. He was laughing.
Education and knowledge are so important when it comes to social inclusion. We need to educate parents, carers, family members of people living with hearing conditions and the community as a whole. We also need to get an understanding out in community that there is no shame with having something wrong with your ears. Everyone’s got something that makes them different from someone else and we need to embrace those differences so we can learn, grow and support each other.