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Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children

The Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children in Sydney provides a range of educational services for students with vision and/or hearing impairment, including specialist schools for signing deaf students, oral deaf students, and students with sensory and intellectual disabilities. RIDBC offers additional services such as therapy and braille text production, a children's audiology centre, and also conducts research and professional development through its Renwick Centre. Historically it is an important centre of deaf culture in Australia.

RIDBC was opened on the 22 October, 1860 by deaf Scottish immigrant Thomas Pattison, who was the school's first teacher. Located at 152 Liverpool St Sydney, the school was originally named the "Deaf and Dumb Institution of New South Wales". From its early days it was open to all deaf children, though many were turned away for lack of resources. Sydney was still a young city at the time, with only 80,000 inhabitants; the University of Sydney had been established a mere ten years prior and public education was in its infancy. The school began to take in blind students in 1869, and added the word "blind" to its name. It was predominantly a boarding school, and moved many times within central Sydney to accommodate more students as the school grew, including stints in Paddington and Newtown, before finding its present home in North Rocks in 1962. It currently operates several educational centres around New South Wales and offers some national services.

David Hunter, a former student of the school who had been blind from age 6, was elected as member of the NSW parliament (for Ashfield) when he was 35 and served there for 35 years (1940 - 1976). He was responsible for the passing of an Act in 1944 to make the education of blind and deaf children compulsory. Another well-known student was Alice Betteridge, the first Australian deafblind child to receive an education. She enrolled in 1908 at the age of seven where she learned to read and write, graduating as dux in 1920.

Today there are three specialist schools within RIDBC:

  • The Alice Betteridge School, for children with sensory and intellectual disabilities (renamed from "The Special School for Multi-handicapped Blind Students" in 1990).
  • The Garfield Barwick School, for "oral" deaf children who communicate using speech and assisted hearing. Opened in 1988 as a primary school to prepare deaf students for a mainstream high school.
  • The Thomas Pattison School, which provides education in Auslan, Australia's deaf sign language. Established in 1992 as the "Thomas Pattison Annexe", renamed as a school in 1997.

RIDBC also runs a number of early childhood services. These include home based, centre based and remote early education programs for children up to 5 years who have sensory disabilities, as well as five special preschools (RIDBC Hunter, RIDBC Nepean, VisionEd Preschool, Roberta Reid Preschool, Rockie Woofit Preschool) and support for children with sensory disabilities enrolled in mainstream preschools.

In addition to its direct services, RIDBC aims to help as many deaf and blind children as possible through its Renwick Centre, for research and professional education of those educating children with sensory disability. Renwick is conducted in conjunction with the University of Newcastle and offers a range of post-graduate courses (including a Master of Special Education in Sensory Disability) and continuing education activities. Renwick attracts students from across Australia and internationally.

RIDBC is a major Australian charity but relies heavily on Government subsidy and community support to continue its services.


  • 1860 - Deaf and Dumb Institution of New South Wales
  • 1868 - New South Wales Deaf and Dumb Institution
  • 1869 - New South Wales Deaf Dumb and Blind Institution
  • 1957 - Royal NSW Institution for Deaf and Blind Children
  • 1962 - The institution provides the premises for two state schools operated by the NSW Department of Education: North Rocks School for Deaf Children and North Rocks School for Blind Children
  • 1974 - Royal NSW Institute for Deaf and Blind Children.
  • 1997 - Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children.

See also

External links

Further reading

  • Crickmore, Barbara Lee (2000), An Historical Perspective on the Academic Education of Deaf Children in New South Wales 1860s-1990s, PhD thesis, University of Newcastle. Available for download.

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