Libby Harricks Memorial Oration

Deafness Forum of Australia
Audiology Australia

Deafness Forum of Australia and Audiology Australia present the annual Libby Harricks Memorial Oration.  The Oration series raises awareness of issues of hearing health, deafness and ear and balance disorders.  The reputation of the series is due to the great contributions of its outstanding Orators who have presented on a wide range of important topics.

LibbyLibby Harricks

The series honours the memory of the first President of Deafness Forum of Australia.  For her work on behalf of hearing impaired people Libby Harricks was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1990.  Read her story


Let’s reward inspirational people! Do you know someone who has been able to manage their hearing loss to achieve personal success?

Nominations for this annual award open each new year and close on the last day of February.

Find out more from Hearing Matters Australia


Choose from among the Orations listed below – click the title to activate a download.

21st annual Oration, 2019

Professor Andrew Smith from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine presented the Oration in 2019. The Oration was a keynote address at Indigenous Hearing Health Symposium, 5 March 2019 at Sydney’s Hearing Hub. It marked World Hearing Day and Hearing Awareness Week. Andrew Smith has conducted studies of interventions against ear and hearing disorders in these countries using innovative methods:

20th annual Oration

The 20th Oration was presented in 2018 as a key-note address during the Audiology Australia national conference in Sydney.  Its Orator was Dr Graeme Innes AM.  He was once a Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission, responsible for issues relating to disability, race and human rights.  Download the 2018 Oration here

Hearing and Mind: What should we do about hearing loss to promote cognitive well‐being in older age?

In the 19th annual Libby Harricks Memorial Oration in 2017, Dr Piers Dawes discussed possible links between hearing loss and cognitive health.

Piers is a senior lecturer in audiology at the University of Manchester. He is a developmental neuropsychologist with a PhD in experimental psychology from the University of Oxford.  He asked whether effective prevention, identification and management of hearing problems represent an opportunity to optimise well-being and quality of life in older age.

The Oration was part of the 17th Alzheimer’s Australia Biennial National Dementia Conference in Melbourne in 2017

18th Libby Harricks Memorial Oration

The Honourable John Howard OM AC, 25th Prime Minister of Australia

It was presented in 2016 as part of the 18th National Deafness Sector Summit in Sydney.

Towards a new model for the deaf inclusion of leadership in early hearing detection and intervention services

Dr Christine Yoshinaga-Itano

Presented at the Australasian Newborn Hearing Screening Conference, Sydney 2015.

Making connections

Clinical Associate Professor Susan Brumby

A key-note address at the XXXII World Audiology Congress, Brisbane 2014.

The consequences of being born Deaf in the 21st Century

Dr Laurie S Eisenberg

Presented at the Australian Hearing Hub Inaugural Conference, Sydney 2013.

A report card on the social wellbeing of Deaf and hearing impaired people in Australia

Dr Anthony Hogan

Presented at the 7th National Deafness Sector Summit, Melbourne 2012.

Molecules, managers or mentors: how can we minimise noise damage in the workplace

Dr Robert Patuzzi

Presented at the 11th National Rural Health Conference, Perth 2011.

Early identification of hearing impairment in Australia: Well begun is not all done

Professor Greg Leigh

Presented at the 6th National Deafness Sector Summit, Sydney 2010.

The bionic ear: from an idea to reality

Professor Graeme Clark AC

Presented at the General Practice Continuing Education conference, Sydney 2009.

Access, equity and hearing loss in Australia in 2008

Professor Bob Cowan

Presented at the 5th National Deafness Sector Summit, Canberra 2008.

Hearing and communication: a primary concern in aged care

Richard Osborn

Presented at the 9th Rural Health Conference, Albury NSW 2007.

Hearing Loss: the silent epidemic. Who, why, impact and what can we do about it

Professor Harvey Dillon

Presented at the 4th National Deafness Sector Summit, Perth 2006.

Deafness and disability transformed: an empowering personal context

Alex Jones

Presented at the Blue Mountains conference, NSW 2005.

A sorry business: lack of progress in Aboriginal hearing health

Dr Peter Carter

Presented at the 3rd National Deafness Sector Summit, Brisbane 2004.

Disability law and people with hearing loss: we’ve come a long way but not there yet

Donna Lee Sorkin

Presented at Macquarie University, Sydney 2003.

The prevalence, risk factors and impacts of hearing impairment in an older Australian community

Professor Paul Mitchell

Presented at the XXVI International Conference of Audiology, Melbourne 2002.

The politics of deafness

Senator the Honorable Margaret Reid

Presented at the National Press Club, Canberra 2001.

Recent advances in the understanding of Meniere’s disease and tinnitus

Professor William P R Gibson AM

Presented at the International Federation of Hard of Hearing Conference, Sydney 2000.

Inaugural Libby Harricks Memorial Oration

Emeritus Professor Di Yerbury AM

Sydney 1999.

Elisabeth Ann Harricks AM

“I look back over these years since I became hearing impaired and realise that any efforts that I have made have been returned to me threefold. I have found talents I never knew I had, I have gained so much from the many people I have met and worked with to improve life for people with disabilities and through self-help I have turned the potential negative of a profound hearing loss into a positive sense of purpose and direction in my life”.

Libby started to lose her hearing following a bad dose of flu in the English winter soon after her marriage in 1969. Returning to Australia in 1970 she began to find difficulty in understanding conversation and instructions, particularly on the telephone, which was very important in her profession of pharmacy.

In spite of advice against it, Libby tried hearing aids and found they helped. Had she heeded the negative advice, Libby believed she might never have embarked on the road to self-help, which so enriched her own life and that of many others.

She thought her two boys quickly learnt to sleep through the night and her friends remarked they had loud voices, which was the boys’ mechanism for coping with a deaf mother!

The more the doctors said nothing could be done to help, the more Libby looked towards self help and so she learnt to lip read, a tool she relied on heavily in her quest to help others.

Libby’s will to win led her, with the help of others, to get involved with the setting up of a support group, which became SHHH – Self Help for Hard of Hearing people. The American founder, Rocky Stone, was invited to Australia in 1982 and did a lecture tour entitled “The Hurt That Does Not Show” which cemented the bonds between the US and Australian groups and helped the local SHHH develop.

Libby, with others, then began SHHH News, a quarterly publication, and with Bill Taylor set up the first Hearing Information and Resource Centre at ‘Hillview’, Turramurra with support from Hornsby/Kuringai Hospital. This centre provided reliable information on, and demonstrated, assistive listening devices for hearing impaired people. Through this interest, Libby became an enthusiastic user of technology and with her handbag full of electronic aids was able to join in a full social life with family and public.

Libby became President of SHHH in 1986 and began to develop her role as an advocate for hearing impaired people generally. She became involved in ACCESS 2000, under the Australian Deafness Council, and a member of the Disability Council of NSW. Her horizons broadened further as Vice President of the Australian Deafness Council and then as the first, and two terms, President of the newly formed national peak body in deafness, the Deafness Forum of Australia. In this latter role Libby made a huge contribution to bring together all the different organisations into a central body, and actively lobbied on behalf of Deaf and hearing impaired at the highest level. The archetype of a successful achiever despite her profound hearing loss.

For her work for hearing impaired people Libby was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1990. Later she was appointed by the Government to the Board of Australian Hearing Services and was asked to represent the needs of hearing impaired on the Olympic Access Committee.

Libby faced another hurdle when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1995. She continued her family and volunteer work with undiminished vigour. She would wickedly show off her wig at public functions after her chemotherapy, and talked openly of her ‘mean disease’. She died peacefully on 1 August 1998.