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The eighth annual Women of Spirit breakfast held notes of resilience, hope, humour and success for an attentive audience of Wenona parents, alumnae and staff.
Guest speaker and Wenona graduate Kate Obermayer (Locke, 1997) shared what life with hearing loss is like and spoke of how her family’s support, friendships at Wenona and experiences as a young girl shaped her future.
Diagnosed with mild to moderate hearing loss at age 11 and profoundly deaf by age 21, Mrs Obermayer has gone on to advocate successfully for media accessibility for people with hearing loss and is currently the Global Customer Engagement Coordinator at Cochlear Ltd. Through advocacy she has also helped to lift financial support for hearing aids, which cost up to $10,000 each, from age 21 to 26.
Mrs Obermayer spoke of feeling included while belonging to a small year group with other boarding students – from Fiji, Hong Kong and Newcastle – excelling academically in Year 12 despite finding it difficult to hear, and the joy of hearing her mother say ‘I love you’ during her first phone call after receiving a cochlear implant. While there were dark moments in her university years, she has embraced opportunities and co-founded a mentoring program for deaf teens to help them feel connected.
“I often tell them thank you for helping me to forget I was going deaf,” she said of the friends she had while a student at Wenona.
“I was never teased, there was a supportive atmosphere and I was so grateful for that. I was so excited to be there. I was so excited to wear the school uniform because I had come from a school where people couldn’t afford uniforms. I am very excited to hear Dr Scott say there is support available through scholarships. Diversity is so important.”
A record 195 people attended the breakfast held at Luna Park on May 12. The event raised funds for Alumnae-sponsored Barbara Jackson and Wenona Alumnae scholarships, which give students from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to attend the school.