Who was Cora Barclay?

07 November 2017

Painting of Mrs Cora Barclay
Mrs Cora Barclay

Today marks 8 years since our namesake, Mrs Cora Barclay passed away. But who was Cora and why is she so important to everyone at the Centre?

The Cora Barclay Centre was started by a group of mothers who had children during the early 1940’s Rubella epidemic. The epidemic resulted in a higher than usual number of children born with hearing loss. At this time the Centre was known as the SA Oral School.

In 1946 Cora enrolled her daughter, Helen, in the school so that she could learn to listen and speak. Cora wanted to support the SA Oral School so supported as a volunteer in the classroom, which was exceptionally useful as she was a trained teacher. In 1949 she was appointed as a teacher at the School.

Cora was offered the chance to train overseas, which, despite having just had her second child, she readily accepted. This move was exceptionally unusual and progressive for the time and she travelled overseas, leaving her husband as the sole carer for their two children.

The training Cora undertook was in the Auditory-Verbal Therapy approach to teaching children who are deaf or hearing impaired to listen and speak; the approach we still use today.

Cora Barclay's AVT Notebooks
One of Cora's notebooks from her overseas studies 

Cora was totally dedicated to the Auditory-Verbal Therapy approach to the education of children who are deaf or hearing impaired. She was steadfast in her advocacy for this method despite professional debate around the therapy and teaching methods. This debate still rages on today, but now we have the benefit of years of research which shows the effectiveness of the Auditory-Verbal Therapy approach.

Following her overseas training Cora returned to Adelaide and in 1952 became Principal of the SA Oral School. Initially the position was for a term of three years, however Cora remained Principal of the SA Oral School until her until her retirement in 1988.

During those years the SA Oral School weathered many changes, however the guiding philosophy to provide the best possible outcomes for children who were deaf or hearing impaired remained the focus. This vision remains as the core of the work undertaken today.  

In 1969 Cora’s commitment and efforts were rewarded with an OBE and in 1986 she was made a Life Member of the Australian Association for Teachers of the Deaf.

In February 1990 to honour the inspirational woman who made the Centre what it is today, the SA Oral School was renamed the Cora Barclay Centre for Children with Hearing Impairment Inc., known today as simply the Cora Barclay Centre.

Cora Barclay is more than a namesake for the Centre. She is our inspiration and she is the reason so many children who are deaf or hearing impaired are able to listen and speak. 


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