Graduates to make a difference to deaf and blind children   15 Jun 2012


Graduates to make a difference to children with vision or hearing loss

At a recent ceremony at the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) in Sydney, 51 new graduates were recognised for completing their postgraduate qualifications in special education.

These graduates completed their studies through RIDBC’s Renwick Centre and will now help to alleviate a critical shortage of trained teachers of children with hearing or vision impairment.

RIDBC Renwick Centre operates in affiliation with the University of Newcastle with all degrees being awarded by the University. The Centre is the largest provider of postgraduate education programs in the field of the education of children with a sensory disability in Australia, and is among the largest and most widely recognised in the field across the world.

One graduate was Cairns resident, Melinda Whipp, who completed a Master of Special Education (Vision Impairment). Melinda’s son, Sidney, has vision loss and is enrolled in RIDBC Teleschool – an Australia-wide program provides services to children and families in rural and regional locations via high-quality videoconferencing technology.

“After Sidney was diagnosed we began our search for support, not only for our child, but for ourselves. Familiar with what was, or wasn’t, available locally, we soon began looking further afield. We were delighted to find RIDBC Teleschool and have received amazing support ever since.

“As I learnt more about the importance of literacy and specialist education for students with a vision loss I decided to make the commitment to study to become a specialist. I felt this would allow me to best understand Sidney’s school curriculum and disability specific needs, as well as how to meet them.”

In 2008 Melinda began her postgraduate degree through RIDBC Renwick Centre and now works for Education Queensland as an advisory Teacher for Vision Impairment in the Cairns region.

“My relationship with RIDBC is as a postgraduate student, a parent and as a teaching professional who attends the world class conferences held as part of RIDBC’s Continuing Professional Education program,” said Melinda.

“RIDBC has been the complete experience for my family and for me. The continuity of care, availability of resources and access to specialists – all in one place - is invaluable. It has greatly reduced the stresses and uncertainties involved with being the parent and teacher of students with vision loss.”

“With skilled special education and early intervention children with vision or hearing loss can access the same opportunities as all Australian children and reach their full potential,” said Conjoint Professor Greg Leigh, Director of RIDBC Renwick Centre. “These children get the best possible start to life when they, and their families, receive immediate support from appropriately trained and specialist teachers and professionals.

“This dedicated professional education and research Centre has effectively reversed a trend of diminishing professional specialisation in the field of educating children with a sensory disability. Our graduates this year will join an expanding group of highly skilled specialists who are all working to improve the educational opportunities available to children with sensory impairment around the country and the world.”

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. In order to maintain its intensive educational and research programs, the organisation needs to raise approximately $2.5 million every month.

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


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