Cora Barclay Centre Chief Executive Officer Michael Forwood has been appointed the new Chair of First Voice.

He takes over from Therese Kelly, the CEO of Taralye, who has held the role for the past 18 months. Scott Johnston, the CEO of Hearing House in New Zealand, continues in the role as Deputy Chair.

First Voice is the regional voice for organisations that provide listening and spoken language early intervention services for children who are deaf or hearing impaired. It represents six early intervention centres located across Australia and New Zealand.

Michael has worked for more than 30 years in the health and disability services sector. He has been CEO and board member at Cora Barclay Centre in South Australia since 2006, and has held senior management roles with a range of organisations, including state departments of health and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

He has been leading First Voice’s advocacy on the National Disability Insurance Scheme since its inception. He has previously held roles with the NDS State Committee in South Australia, the 2011 Ministerial Steering Committee reviewing the SA Disability Services Act (1993), the SA Launch Site Working Party for the introduction of the NDIS, and more recently the NDIS’s expert reference panel pertaining to hearing loss.

“It’s a great honour to take on the role of First Voice Chair, continuing First Voice’s important work in bringing listening and spoken language to hearing impaired children living in Australia and New Zealand,” he said.

Michael said the disability services sector was going through a period of intense change with the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

“By continuing to undertake and promote evidence-based research and outcomes in the area of childhood hearing loss, we will ensure that First Voice and the children and families we represent continue to be heard by government and the wider community,” he said.

He said First Voice had two clear goals over the next 18 months:

1. To ensure that hearing impaired children received adequately funded, evidence based early intervention services within the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
2. To continue to publish annual listening and spoken language outcomes of children enrolled in First Voice early intervention programs within the region.
Michael paid special tribute to outgoing Chair Therese Kelly, who had demonstrated great leadership and commitment to First Voice over the past 18 months.

He said he planned to meet with as many member boards and stakeholders as possible over his term as Chair, and invited individuals and organisations to contact him directly regarding any matters relating to early childhood deafness.

The First Voice Board comprises one representative from each of its member organisations. The Board Chair rotates every 18 months among its member organisations.