Speaking for the voiceless

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Sr Patricia Bailey OAM with hearing impaired student Grace Kambour. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Sr Patricia Bailey OAM with hearing impaired student Grace Kambour. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

A Sydney Dominican sister who has spent more than 40 years giving deaf children a voice has been honoured by the Queen.

Sr Patricia Bailey now OAM received the award for her service to education, particularly for the deaf and hearing impaired.

Initially reluctant to receive the honour, she hopes she can use her new found notoriety to highlight the “urgent need of hearing impaired children” which she says has up until now fallen on deaf ears.

The veteran educator of 44 years who teaches at five Sydney Catholic Schools, said she felt the need to speak for those who could not speak for themselves.

“Government funding cuts has meant a cut to services for deaf kids and it’s heartbreaking,” she said.

Principal Maria Femia with hearing impaired student Grace Kambour. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Principal Maria Femia with hearing impaired student Grace Kambour. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

“I have been working with these little kiddies for over 40 years and know how deeply they need extra support which is just not being given.

“They really do need specialist teaching help which sadly some are missing out on.

“The technology has come a long way and cochlear implants are fantastic but I think many assume because of the technology now available they don’t need this specialist teaching, but believe me they do.

“They are sitting in a noisy classroom of say 30 or so kids and really do miss so much of what is said.

“I just hope I can use this honour to raise the awareness of hearing impaired children and their very specialised needs.”

Staff at St Brendan's Primary School at Bankstown celebrate Sr Patricia's OAM. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Staff at St Brendan’s Primary School at Bankstown celebrate Sr Patricia’s OAM. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Student Grace Kambour, who has been taught by Sr Patricia since starting school, said she is one of the few people who really understands what it’s like to be deaf.

The Year 4 student born with BVVL syndrome, a degenerative muscle condition which causes hearing loss, said she “just loved her and what she does”.

“She is really nice and always listens to me and helps me with my hearing,” she said.

“She helps me to learn, I don’t know how I would go if it wasn’t for her.”

Principal Maria Femia at St Brendan’s Catholic Primary School at Bankstown, one of the five schools where Sr Patricia works her magic, said the gifted teacher had taught the entire school community to not only accept but to understand those who may be different.

She said in the five years Sr Patricia had been teaching at the school she had taught some very valuable lessons not only to the hearing impaired but the whole school community.

“Sr Patricia is a Godsend, she has taught us all to be more understanding of people who may be different which is part of our school vision, particularly with the diverse clientele that we have, but with regards to their disability, not just their cultural background,” she said.

Sr Patricia Bailey OAM with hearing impaired student Grace Kambour. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Sr Patricia Bailey OAM with hearing impaired student Grace Kambour. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

“Sr Patricia has taught us so how to modify learning programs to better cater for the needs of children with a hearing disability and to never assume what their need or understanding of content is.

“She has a great understanding of their needs, is a great connection between home and school, following up any technical needs regarding hardware that the children use.

“She has shown us that children with disabilities are the same as everyone else, they just have different needs. The children are accepted and respected and most children wouldn’t know about their physical needs.”

Sr Patricia grew up in Maitland and entered the Dominicans at just 22, attracted to the order known for its work in “teaching and preaching”.

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