A first for Darwin

Cherraya is the first Indigenous toddler to receive a cochlear implant in the Northern TerritoryCherraya is the first Indigenous toddler to receive a cochlear implant in the Northern Territory

Two-year-old Cherraya is already showing an artistic side, loves to draw and, like most children her age, is keenly exploring the world around her. Now, thanks to bilateral cochlear implants, the Darwin-based toddler has access to a world of sound too.

Cherraya is the first Indigenous toddler to receive a cochlear implant in the Northern Territory, undergoing surgery at the Royal Darwin Hospital in April.

Of the switch-on experience mum Rosalie describes it as amazing. "Cherraya responded to sound immediately and I cried from happiness. I'll never forget it," she says.


Following her switch-on, the team at RIDBC Darwin continue working with Cherraya to develop speech.

“The first step is for her to become aware of the sounds in her environment and what they mean. We will use play-based therapy to help her develop her listening skills" says Liz Fisher, RIDBC Teacher of the Deaf, and Cherraya's Habilitationist.


Having access to a locally based service is important for parents like Rosalie, who claims having the surgery in Darwin has greatly helped her family, "Not having to go to a bigger city, being able to stay here with the entire family has been great".

Liz visits Cherraya at home too, so that she can receive support in a familiar environment which also has the benefit of allowing the whole family to be part of Cherraya's journey. "The Indigenous culture is a very family-orientated one, so working with Cherraya in her home means we can include other members of the family too," says Liz.

Cherraya was born with a profound hearing loss, identified during newborn screening. Rosalie was initially a little shocked by the diagnosis, "I didn’t know anyone else who had experienced hearing loss, so it was an emotional time," she says.

Initially fitted with hearing aids, these quickly proved ineffective for Cherraya. Rosalie knew it was important to explore other options to give Cherraya a chance to develop speech. "RIDBC helped me to look at, and consider Cherraya's options," she says. "We decided on cochlear implants because they would give her the best chance at hearing and learning to talk."

Amazed at Cherraya's progress to date, Rosalie would recommend cochlear implants to families who are in a similar position. "It’s been a really emotional journey for us. I'd really recommend it to other families of children with hearing loss," she says.

The future is bright for the toddler. Rosalie hopes that Cherraya will learn to talk and go to a mainstream school in the future. Liz agrees, "The younger the children get [cochlear] implants the better. Those who receive implants under the age of three tend to have the best outcomes. Our goal for Cherraya is that she will catch up to her peers with her speech and language skills before she goes to school."

Read other recipient stories

Button to subscribe

Receive stories like this directly to your inbox.

Button to subscribe