Director of the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) Renwick Centre, Conjoint Professor Gregory Leigh was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his service to those with hearing loss in Monday’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Mr Leigh has devoted his working life to improving outcomes for those with hearing loss through education, research, public policy and the development of specialist services.
“I had a long-term ambition to be a teacher and a particular interest in working with children with different learning needs,” he said.
“As a school leaver, someone I knew encouraged me to study for my qualifications as a teacher through Griffith University where there was a focus on special education and a specialisation in education of the deaf.
“I’m still very excited about the work that I do; it’s such a dynamic field.
"Developments in so many different areas ensure that children with hearing loss can achieve alongside their hearing peers. Knowing that your work improves lives makes it really easy to get up and go to work each morning.”
In addition to his work with RIDBC, Mr Leigh has served on numerous Australian government consultative committees on issues related to deafness and is a member of the Editorial Boards of both the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education and Deafness and Education International.
He is chair of the Australasian Newborn Hearing Screening Committee, is a former national president of the Education Commission for the World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf (1999) and is currently chair of the International Steering Committee of the Asia-Pacific Congress on Deafness and co-chair of the International Committee of the International Congress on Education of the Deaf.
RIDBC Renwick Centre operates in affiliation with the University of Newcastle. It is the largest provider of postgraduate education programs in the field of the education of children with a sensory disability in Australia.
“Technology like the cochlear implant is essential — but technology can only get you so far," Mr Leigh said.
"Children with hearing or vision loss get the best possible start to life when they, and their families, receive immediate support from appropriately trained professionals.
“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."
More than 750 graduates from the centre are now working to improve the educational opportunities available to children with sensory impairment around the country and the world, he said.