As a graduate of the first speech therapy course offered in Queensland, Dr Dimity Dornan AO entered an undeveloped profession as a sole practitioner.
From the outset, Dimity was a pioneer in her field. She became the first full-time speech pathologist at the Princess Alexandra, Royal Brisbane and Royal Children’s Hospitals, and worked with patients who had suffered head injuries or strokes.
Seeking better forms of treatment for children experiencing extreme hearing loss, and knowing the Cochlear Implant would soon be available, Dimity studied and then adopted the auditory-verbal approach. This led to the commencement of a specialised practice and the establishment of Hear and Say in 1992 which became an international force through her scientifically informed leadership.
In building an organisation from scratch, Dimity was assisted by Wally Lewis whose daughter was in the first group of children to participate in the Hear and Say program. He contributed significantly to Hear and Say’s early growth by assisting with publicity, finance, and gaining the support of the rugby league community.
Through rigorous research, Dimity was able to establish that severely hearing impaired children could, with Cochlear implants and auditory-verbal therapy, progress in listening and speaking at the same rate as children with normal hearing. This was a world first and a springboard for the extraordinary success which followed, despite professional scepticism and initial opposition to her work.
Through Dimity’s vision, Hear and Say Worldwide was established to share the successes of her programs with the international community. It is now a global professional training program capable of assisting hundreds of thousands of children around the world. Dimity also formed Human Bionics Interface Frontiers to foster collaboration between groups working in the field, both in Australia and globally. The scientifically researched outcomes of Hear and Say programs are contributing greatly to the rapidly expanding development of other types of human bionics such as bionic eyes, limbs, and other organs.
Hear and Say has assisted thousands of children in Australia and around the world to hear, listen and speak, and is now an acknowledged international leader with increasing global influence. Its success is largely attributable to Dimity’s unstinting dedication, inspirational leadership, and entrepreneurial vision.