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04 December 2019
By Lotte Reiter
“Why should my successes be confined by the limitations others place on me?”
That is the underpinning belief that fuels Catherine Dunn’s passion to fight for a discrimination and barrier-free future.
The former Horsham resident, younger sister of adventurer and campaigner Tom Dunn, was born profoundly deaf with bilateral loss, meaning she is unable to detect any sound.
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At birth, doctors told her parents she would be unable to hear an airplane if it were farther than 25 metres away.
Yet despite the potential for Ms Dunn’s impairment to restrict her, ongoing support from family and friends and a constant exposure to diversity has allowed her to thrive.
And after recently becoming the newest individual advocacy officer for disability services and support organisation Deaf Victoria, she is on a mission to support other people to flourish in the face of adversity.
“Growing up deaf in a hearing family in Horsham really taught me the value of representation, role models and awareness – for any minority,” she said.
“I was born into a family who had no prior knowledge or experience with deaf people, but still sought to give me the same, if not more, opportunities.
“And while naturally I have experienced barriers at times, the realisation that I’m not the only one and that many people have it far worse than me spurred on my passion to fight for a better future.”
Ms Dunn attended Horsham Primary School and Horsham College before moving to Melbourne aged 14 to attend a school with a deaf facility and deaf peers.
Many from the Wimmera might recognise her from her participation in the Horsham Primary School Signing Choir, conducted by Horsham deaf role-model Buffy Harrison.
Ms Dunn said the support and opportunities she had growing up – including her parents driving her to Melbourne once a week for three years to attend playgroups with other young deaf children – were instrumental to her successes.
And while she said she felt ‘incredibly lucky’ to receive the support that many deaf people go without, she wanted to see a future where such support was not considered lucky, but normal.
“The role of individual advocacy officer was never something I explicitly set out to pursue, however the role’s values definitely align with my own,” Ms Dunn said.
“Throughout my life, all my future job dreams have been underpinned by my passions and values for equality, access, human rights and social justice, all of which have landed me in the Deaf Victoria office right now.
“I will never stop expressing my gratitude for the support I received from my family and close friends, but I also hope to work towards a future where support for deaf people isn’t considered ‘lucky’.
“It’s a very exciting time for me and for Deaf Victoria.”
Ms Dunn said anyone with a hearing loss and feeling discriminated against and unsure of how to proceed could contact her for help by text message or Facetime on 0431 476 721 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.