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Thomas Pattison Day—a legacy that redefined what is possible

On Friday 22 October we celebrate Thomas Pattison Day, to honour an incredible man who left an immensely positive legacy for the Deaf community by opening the first school for children who are deaf.
An old portrait style black and white photo of Thomas Pattison.He is looking off camera to the left, sporting a long white beard and wearing a three piece suit. He sits in front of a white and grey backdrop.

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  • Vision
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Why Thomas Pattison is so important to us and our community

In 1860, Thomas Pattison, a deaf Scottish migrant, opened the first Australian school for children who were deaf. Nine years later, our specialist services expanded to include support for children who were blind.

The school and surrounding services would eventually become the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children and evolve into NextSense and the NextSense School.

The ingenuity and drive of Thomas Pattison has left a legacy that has paved the way for children who are deaf, blind, deafblind, hard of hearing, or have low vision.

His personal drive and contribution was extraordinary, and it’s at the heart of who we are—which is why we continue to honour and celebrate him.

His legacy is alive in everything we do at Nextsense today, but particularly apparent in our specialist school services.

For the past 161 years, we have continued to deliver education services to children who are deaf, blind, deafblind, hard of hearing, or have low vision. This includes the NextSense Sign Bilingual Program K-10, which is for children who use both Australian Sign Language (Auslan) and English in its written and spoken form.

Alongside our Sign Bilingual Program, we deliver the NextSense Spoken Language Program, Blind and Deafblind Program, and School Support for children in independent schools.

NextSense School programs specialise in educating children who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or have low vision by providing access to a high-quality curriculum, which is adjusted to each individual student in an inclusive environment. We teach children the skills they need to thrive in their lives.

Our education services are also designed to support children attending other independent schools. We provide support to students to enable their access to learning in a wide range of school settings.

Thomas Pattison had a vision and was ahead of his time. By laying the groundwork for future education services, he enabled NextSense and our community to grow, nurture his vision, and continue to innovate.

What are we doing to celebrate Thomas Pattison Day?

This year, due to the disruption of COVID-19 and the gradual return to in-person schooling, we sadly will not be holding our annual Thomas Pattison Open Day celebration.

This decision was made due to uncertainty around the lifting of restrictions, and with the health and safety of our students and community front of mind.

But that doesn’t mean we won't be honoring and celebrating the tremendous importance of Thomas Pattison and his legacy – our celebrations will just look a little bit different.

So, on Thursday 21 October, our school is holding a digital celebration of Thomas Pattison to explore his history and legacy with our students.

We will be sharing more about our activities on Thomas Pattison Day this Friday, so check out our social media channels.

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