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“You can see the impact”: CEO on helping children with hearing loss

Alumni News

Mark Fitzpatrick was appointed Telethon Speech & Hearing’s CEO in 2017, the year the WA-based non-profit celebrated its fiftieth anniversary of helping children with hearing, speech and language difficulties.

Telethon Speech & Hearing CEO Mark Fitzpatrick, a Curtin commerce graduate, with Maria Bennett and children from one of the centre’s early intervention programs.
Telethon Speech & Hearing CEO Mark Fitzpatrick, a Curtin commerce graduate, with Maria Bennett and children from one of the centre’s early intervention programs.

Mark Fitzpatrick is not one to rest on his laurels.

As CEO of Telethon Speech & Hearing, the Curtin commerce alumnus has developed a new three-year strategic plan with the Board of Directors, expanded the number of partnerships with health service providers, sought better relationships with organisations that support children and encouraged greater staff cooperation to enhance service delivery.

Beginning in the fiftieth anniversary year gave Fitzpatrick the chance to become familiar with Telethon Speech & Hearing’s values – in particular through meeting Telethon Speech & Hearing’s first teacher Marie Kormendy and other hearing loss pioneers at the 50 Year Reunion event and the Anniversary Breakfast.

“The fact we were started by a group of WA parents in 1967 who wanted better support for their deaf children is a core part of our DNA. It has influenced our service delivery, because we don’t just support children, we also support their families,” Fitzpatrick says.

“It’s necessary for us to understand our history to determine where we want to go.”

Rebecca Mackie, Ethan Mackie, WA Premier Mark McGowan and Mark Fitzpatrick, during promotion of the 2018 Get LOUD campaign.

(Left to right) Telethon Speech & Hearing student Ethan Mackie and his mum, Rebecca; WA Premier Mark McGowan and CEO Mark Fitzpatrick, during promotion of the 2018 Get LOUD campaign.

The majority of families have been highly satisfied with the progress their child has been making under Fitzpatrick’s tenure.

In 2018, 99.3 per cent of families surveyed said Telethon Speech & Hearing’s early intervention programs were meeting their child’s learning needs.

These programs include Chatterbox, which helps children aged zero to five with their speech, language, listening and motor skills; Outpost, a support program for hearing impaired students at nine primary and secondary schools across Perth; and Talkabout, which helps children aged 18 months to five years who have speech and language challenges.

Fitzpatrick has seen the full effect of the programs during the annual Telethon Speech & Hearing’s Power of Speech awards, where primary and secondary school aged students with hearing loss are invited to speak on a topic of their choice to a packed auditorium.

Last year, 23 students took to the stage.

“It’s one of the most uplifting, powerful events you’ll ever see. These six- to 12-year-old kids are delivering an engaging presentation that shows their personality to a crowd of 250 people.

“You can see the impact our programs have had upon these kids and their families.”

Girl speaking at the Power of Speech Awards

The annual Power of Speech awards help children with speech and language challenges build their confidence.

As the CEO of a non-profit, Fitzpatrick has lent his voice to a variety of social and economic issues related to Telethon Speech & Hearing’s bottom line.

He donned his swimwear to promote the inaugural 100m Swim Thru Perth CEO Challenge in January, raising money to support Telethon Speech & Hearing’s early intervention programs.

He also worked towards enhancing Telethon Speech & Hearing’s mobile ear health services in the Pilbara and is arranging seminars to assist staff working with Aboriginal communities in WA.

Telethon Speech & Hearing worker, with a child.

Telethon Speech & Hearing has partnered with Chevron to provide mobile ear health services to children living in the West Pilbara.

Fitzpatrick believes his experiences at Curtin laid the foundation for his 15-year career in human resources and management, largely in the non-profit sector.

“Curtin Business School has a great local and international reputation. Having [been taught] a broad base of skills in the first year and then specialising has opened up so many opportunities. It’s enabled me to do everything from analysing profit and loss statements to being able to run organisations.

“Being involved in volunteering also influenced where I ended up and reinforced how I could use the skills I learned in different contexts.”

Hearing Awareness Week (3–9 March 2019)

Newborn with a hearing aid.

Up to 75 per cent of children suffer ear infections at least once before starting school. For some, this may lead to glue ear, which can last for several months and cause temporary hearing loss at an important developmental age. A simple screening test can determine if your child is affected.

In recognition of Hearing Awareness Week, Telethon Speech & Hearing will be conducting discounted $20 ear health screenings and free presentations for parents on children’s hearing and speaking milestones.

Learn more about Telethon Speech & Hearing’s Hearing Awareness Week events

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