Graduate to make a difference to children with hearing loss

Katharine recieves her testamur from RIDBC Renwick Centre Director, Greg LeighKatharine recieves her testamur from RIDBC Renwick Centre Director, Greg Leigh

Katharine Wilson, is one of 51 trained graduates to be recognised at a ceremony at Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) for completing their postgraduate qualifications - helping to alleviate a critical shortage of trained teachers of children with vision or hearing loss.

Katharine has now completed her Masters in Special Education (Hearing Impairment).

"I was originally a social worker working in the wheat belt of WA," said Katharine. "When I married and had my own children I found I couldn't go back to that area of work – it was too emotionally difficult. Then one day I saw a teacher signing to child across a park at a school picnic and, well, I was inspired!"

During her travels in England, Katharine learned some British Sign Language. When she returned home, she enrolled in a local TAFE to learn Australian Sign Language (Auslan) and did a graduate diploma in primary education.

"When I started teaching," said Katharine. "I would watch the visiting itinerant support teachers working with the students with hearing loss and I was so impressed. I thought, why not specialise?"

Katharine undertook her masters through RIDBC Renwick Centre, the largest provider of postgraduate education programs in the field of the education of children with a sensory disability in Australia. The centre operates in affiliation with the University of Newcastle (with all degrees awarded by the university).

"RIDBC is really the only specialist educator in the field that someone in regional Australia can access," said Katharine. "It's a national qualification and the course is delivered via distance education with some residential conferences."

Katharine is using the knowledge she acquired to better support students in the South West of Western Australia, as an itinerant visiting teacher of the Deaf.

"Before I had a limited understanding of audiology and the impact on a child, now I really understand the whole picture," said Katharine. "A lot of teachers think that a child with a hearing aid can hear as well as their hearing peers - but that's not the case."

Through RIDBC Renwick Centre, RIDBC and the University of Newcastle have reversed a trend of diminishing professional specialisation in the field of educating children with a sensory disability. Over 818 graduates from the centre are now working to improve the educational opportunities available to children with sensory impairment around the country and the world.

More information about RIDBC teacher training, professional development and research is available at

RIDBC is Australia’s largest provider of services for children with hearing or vision loss, assisting thousands of children a year across Australia.  As Australia’s premier provider of training and education for professionals in the field of sensory disability, RIDBC also ensures that services delivered throughout government and non-government organisations remain cutting-edge.

RIDBC relies heavily on fundraising and community support to be able to continue to make a difference in children's lives.