Brendan addresses world leaders on disability rights

Not many 20-year-olds can say they’ve stood in front of the world’s most prominent leaders. But that’s exactly what Brendan Pearce accomplished when he flew to the United Nations headquarters in New York in 2014 to speak at the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Standing before more than 500 leaders, Brendan expressed the need to better support young people with disabilities.

There’s still a real stigma in our society that says young people with a disability can’t achieve leadership positions. We need to wipe this out.

He told the leaders that they need to work harder to provide a path. 

We need to find ways to better support and give opportunities to youth with a disability.  Our voice is a crucial piece that’s currently missing on a national and international level, Brendan said.

Brendan’s story

Born with a hearing loss in both ears, Brendan knows first-hand the highs and lows of having a disability.

By the time I reached 3 years old, it was hugely apparent that something wasn’t right.  After being assessed by a community health nurse, my mum was told that I either had a hearing loss or was a naughty child, says Brendan.

At that time it was rare to find children with a hearing loss, so the nurse firmly believed I was just a naughty child.

This marked the beginning of Brendan’s journey in helping people understand his disability and fighting for his rights to be included in society. Growing up, Brendan was the only hearing impaired student in his primary school and was constantly bullied by other children for wearing hearing aids.

Strategy for awareness

But rather than remain a victim to the bullying, Brendan used his experiences to fuel his passion for advocacy.  Throughout his high school years, he threw himself into many worthy social causes: he was elected State Youth Member for Lismore, Minister and Shadow Minister in the YMCA NSW Youth Parliament, Young Lions President and Council Candidate in Lismore.

Most recently, Brendan was appointed to lead the Paediatric Program Advisory Committee, a group which helps shape the services Hearing Australia offers to young adults, teens and children.

I’ve personally experienced the valuable role Hearing Australia can play in a young person’s life, beyond the appointments, tests and technologies. For example, when I moved schools, the team at Hearing Australia went out of their way to meet with my teachers to demonstrate what I could and couldn’t hear in a classroom. It was a lesson they’ll never forget! he says.

It's an experience that's taken him onto the global stage and one that he would like to ensure is available to others.

“Hearing Australia helped me participate in a normal life.  Living in regional NSW, they’ve been the one constant support network outside of my family,” Brendan says.

I’m thrilled at this opportunity to take my passion for advocacy to a new level.