2GB Ben Fordham interviews Hear For You Participant Olivia Barnes – audio and transcript

2GB Ben Fordham interviews Hear For You Participant Olivia Barnes

Ben Fordham – Sydney Live

 Friday, 7 April 2017 at 5.20pm

Link to Audio of the interview: http://www.2gb.com/podcast/16-year-old-addresses-parliament/

Interview Transcript 

This document printed with the permission of 2GB radio
This transcript has been taken directly from the text of live captioning provided by The Captioning Studio and, as such, it may contain errors.


BEN FORDHAM:  What do you think it would be like to be living with a hearing impairment?  Our next guest lives with hers every single day.  Her name is Olivia Barnes.  She was diagnosed with severe hearing loss when she was 6 weeks old.  She’s now 16.  And if you thought that being a teenager was tough from time to time, she says imagine being a deaf teenager.  Yesterday Olivia Barnes spoke to a federal parliamentary committee about the need for more resources for the deaf community.  Alongside hearing impairment association Hear for You, she’s also campaigning for greater understanding of hearing conditions in Australian society and Australian schools because she knows all about that, she’s a schoolgirl.  She’s here with me in the studio right now.  Olivia Barnes, good afternoon.

OLIVIA BARNES:  Thank you.  Good afternoon, Ben.

BEN FORDHAM:  Congratulations.  You’re 16 ‑‑


BEN FORDHAM:  ‑‑ you spoke to a federal parliamentary inquiry at State Parliament yesterday.  What was it like for you?

OLIVIA BARNES:  It was very scary speaking to those big men, but I felt really powerful as well.

BEN FORDHAM:  Those big men.  They were big, were they?

OLIVIA BARNES:  Well, they were very powerful, I can tell you that, very powerful.

BEN FORDHAM:  How can you tell, what, because they had the fancy suits on and they had the impressive titles and things like that?

OLIVIA BARNES:  Oh, no, they were just ‑ you could just tell the presence in the room, how it was just so captivating and so tense and you just needed to make sure that they get the message across, so of being a hearing teenager and needing the resources that most hearing teenagers will need but even more than that.

BEN FORDHAM:  I said to you just outside before you came into the studio I’m 40 years of age, I’ve never spoken at State Parliament to a federal parliamentary inquiry.  I just ran into your dad outside as well.  He’s ‑ well, I don’t know how old dad is, we won’t embarrass him by revealing his age.


BEN FORDHAM:  He’s never spoken at a federal parliamentary inquiry.  This is a big thing to tick off your list, but your speaking career started at school.  I understand you gave a speech at your school.  Tell me about that speech and why you delivered it.

OLIVIA BARNES:  Well, it was in year 8.  So I was being bullied by certain classmates and certain people outside school as well.  So I thought why not talk to them about it, about what it’s like living with a hearing loss and to get them to understand what it’s like to be me.  So I asked them to put cotton balls in their ears so they could represent hearing aids or muffle the sound so they had to really listen.

BEN FORDHAM:  But you gave this speech to the class or the school?

OLIVIA BARNES:  To the class and then to the whole school a year later.

BEN FORDHAM:  So this was your way of trying to address those people ‑‑


BEN FORDHAM:  ‑‑ who were making life hard for you around the school.


BEN FORDHAM:  That’s a big thing to do when you’re facing a situation like that.  Instead of curling up in a ball and feeling sorry for yourself, you thought, “Not only am I going to tell those people who are making life hard for me, I’m going to tell the whole class and the whole school about it.”


BEN FORDHAM:  Did you need a lot of confidence to be able to get up on your feet and make that speech?

OLIVIA BARNES:  Absolutely.  I was very nervous and I sort of wanted to shy away from it and I sort of didn’t want to deal with it, but then I thought well, the only thing that I can change is by telling them, not by just standing back, I have to tell them, I have to face them.

BEN FORDHAM:  What was it like for them, do you think, some of those people who had made life difficult for you when you’re standing up in front of the entire school giving everyone some understanding of what it’s like to be you and to have that hearing challenge?

OLIVIA BARNES:  Well, they definitely stood up and they definitely understand more and my year 10 class, I have a brilliant class now.

BEN FORDHAM:  I understand that you got a lot of applause, a lot of clapping, a lot of cheering after you gave that speech.


BEN FORDHAM:  Then you went on to give a speech at TEDx.


BEN FORDHAM:  Now, TEDx is a conference I suppose of ideas and impressive speakers.  They don’t allow anyone to speak at TEDx, but you were invited along to deliver a speech.


BEN FORDHAM:  And was it a similar speech you gave about giving people an understanding?

OLIVIA BARNES:  Yes, it was a very similar speech but it had a bit more humour in it because I don’t want it to be all so daggy and boring, I wanted to be upbeat and punchy and I think they definitely got the message.

BEN FORDHAM:  How can you have humour about a topic like that that you’re talking about?  How do you have a laugh about it?

OLIVIA BARNES:  Just telling them mistakes that I made, especially at school.

BEN FORDHAM:  What are some of the mistakes you’ve made?


BEN FORDHAM:  I just put you on the spot.

OLIVIA BARNES:  Many, many, many mistakes, I’ll just say that.

BEN FORDHAM:  What, there are so many of them that you can’t think of one immediately?

OLIVIA BARNES:  Yes, very amusing and also I hear teachers’ conversations outside the classroom, so I know all the inside gossip of my school.

BEN FORDHAM:  What do you mean, you can hear them talking outside, how can you hear them?

OLIVIA BARNES:  Through an FM device that they wear which is a microphone that connects to my hearing aids, like Bluetooth headphones.

BEN FORDHAM:  So the teacher will be wearing this special microphone which allows you to listen ‑‑


BEN FORDHAM:  ‑‑ but they then walk outside the classroom and have a private conversation but you’re listening in.

OLIVIA BARNES:  Yes, and also personal trips to the lavatories.

BEN FORDHAM:  Oh, no, Olivia.  Aren’t you supposed to take your earpiece out or something like that?


BEN FORDHAM:  This speech yesterday at State Parliament, what kind of response did you get from the politicians when you spoke and what was your main message that you were getting across yesterday?

OLIVIA BARNES:  That Hear for You needs more government funding because it’s still a very small organisation, not a lot of people know about it, but with the Government’s help and maybe with other people’s, the public’s help, it will get bigger and then we can educate more hearing peers and hearing teachers and mainstream schools, but also access to those deaf people who are just sitting in the corner and just don’t know what to do with their life at the mainstream school.

BEN FORDHAM:  You’ve got a large audience listening to you right now.


BEN FORDHAM:  So what would you say to people?  What can people take home as a little lesson out of hearing you speak right now?  If they’ve got a kid in their classroom who’s just like you, if they know someone in their workplace or even just someone in their street, what would you say to people about how to deal with people like you?

OLIVIA BARNES:  Well, just don’t ‑ just speak calmly, speak slowly, look at them, make sure they see your lips and just make sure that they’re okay, ask them “Can you hear me?”, and if they don’t, maybe move them to the front and make sure you keep looking at them.  But also maybe if they’re a teenager, recommend Hear for You for them because they’re just brilliant people and I have more deaf friends than I have hearing friends than when I started, so that’s the main thing.

BEN FORDHAM:  Do you reckon some people get a little bit intimidated?  They may not be thinking nasty things, but they might just be thinking, “I don’t know, I’m not sure whether she can hear me”, so instead of trying, sometimes they just chicken out?


BEN FORDHAM:  You want those people to speak up, to have a conversation with you.

OLIVIA BARNES:  Yes, absolutely.

BEN FORDHAM:  You have a conversation with them.


BEN FORDHAM:  So you don’t shy away from having that chat.  You just want them to be able to do the same.


BEN FORDHAM:  I think it’s amazing what you’ve done.

OLIVIA BARNES:  Thank you.

BEN FORDHAM:  You stood up in front of your classroom, then you stood up in front of your school, then you stood up in front of a huge conference at TEDx, then you stand up in front of State Parliament at a federal parliamentary inquiry, and now you’re live on the radio around Australia and around the world.  I think it’s amazing.  Your parents must be very proud of you.  What are you going to do?  You’re 16, what are you going to do with your life?  Have you worked out what you’re going to do when you leave school yet or am I putting too much pressure on you?

OLIVIA BARNES:  No, I actually want to be a criminal lawyer.

BEN FORDHAM:  A criminal lawyer.  Why do you want to do that?

OLIVIA BARNES:  I just love true crime and I love how interesting it is and I want to be able to defend the helpless.

BEN FORDHAM:  Well, I think you can do just about anything you put your mind to.  You’re a remarkable young lady.

OLIVIA BARNES:  Thank you.

BEN FORDHAM:  And your school and your family and everyone else should be very proud.  And I want to follow your progress.  I want to see what Olivia Barnes gets up to in her life and how far you go.  I think you’re going to be doing amazing things.

OLIVIA BARNES:  Thank you.

BEN FORDHAM:  Thank you so much for coming in the studio.

OLIVIA BARNES:  No problem.

BEN FORDHAM:  Olivia Barnes joining us on Sydney Live.  So I hope that the message that Olivia gave to her classroom and to her school and to the federal parliamentary inquiry at State Parliament yesterday has also been heard by thousands this afternoon.  Are you hearing Olivia Barnes?  I hope so.


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