Olivia Andersen (nee Gemmell) was diagnosed as profoundly deaf at 8 months of age. Specialist doctors informed her parents that because of her level of hearing loss she would never speak or go to a mainstream school. Olivia’s parents immediately had her fitted with hearing aids and enrolled her with The Shepherd Centre, an early invention centre for deaf children in Sydney. In her early years, she underwent intensive speech and language development.
Olivia attended mainstream schools including Loreto Kirribilli and was awarded RIDBC’s 1999 Garfield and Norma Barwick Medal for her HSC achievements. She represented her school in many different team sports, gained the Gold Duke of Edinburgh and was the recipient of the School President’s Award for “Outstanding Participation and Contribution to School Activities”. On leaving school Olivia joined Palm Beach Surf Life Saving Club and became the second deaf lifesaver in Australia at that time.
After graduating from the University of NSW with a BA in Design and working for marie claire magazine, Olivia lived in London for three years and worked for a fashion / lifestyle magazine which included work assignments in New York and around the United Kingdom. During this time she backpacked throughout Europe, Central America and Africa.
Upon returning home from overseas, Olivia studied Business at RMIT University in Melbourne and was one of 25 recipients in the Victorian state to receive the Churchill Fellowship award at Government House. In 2008, she spent six weeks overseas attending and researching established mentoring organisations in the USA, United Kingdom and Scandinavia. Here she gained valuable, worthwhile experience from existing overseas mentoring and leadership programs for deaf and hard of hearing adolescents. She came back inspired to set up Hear For You.
In September 2010, Olivia won the national AAMI / NEIS Small Business Award at the National NEIS Gala Awards Dinner in Cairns, Queensland in recognition of the founding and establishment of Hear For You. Olivia is currently on the Editorial Advisory Board for Hearing HQ Magazine, providing guidance and expertise on a voluntary basis. The magazine is read by over 60,000 deaf and hard of hearing Australians and industry professionals. Olivia was also one of three judges at the 2012 Deafness Forum of Australia Captioning Awards, which recognises the contributions and achievements made towards improving the quality, frequency and use of captions in Australia.
In 2017, Olivia was awarded the Peter Howson Medal for outstanding contributions in mentoring and leadership development for deaf and hard of hearing adolescents and young people.
Olivia and her husband Thomas have three children. Olivia received her first cochlear implant through Sydney Cochlear Implant Centre when their first child was just seven months old.
Olivia is motivated to help young deaf people achieve their life dreams and ambitions and to be able to face the future with confidence and faith. It is for this reason she started Hear For You in 2007. Olivia worked as Managing Director until 2013 and remains involved as a Director in a voluntary capacity.
Olivia’s motto is: “With the right mind set, anything is possible!”