On International Day for Persons with Disability (PWD), we celebrate the journey of Clare Guria, an Australia Awards alumna and champion for PWDs.

Clare’s story is a remarkable one, depicting strong determination to achieve goals despite having a hearing impairment. Her journey began in the heart of Wewak town, where she grew up and attended primary and secondary education.

Life became different for Clare when she lost her hearing while in the sixth grade.

“My biggest challenge in school was the breakdown in communication with no proper help, but I kept pushing on with the support of my family, close friends and teachers who were willing to keep me on track,” she says.

For Clare, getting through a day in school with support from family, close friends and teachers brought joy, while passing a test or grade was further proof that she could achieve anything.

After completing year 12, Clare chose to pursue a path in visual design so that she could overcome the challenges she faced in communication. She successfully made it to Madang Technical College and graduated with a Certificate in Painting, Decorating and Sign Writing in 2014.

“Since I am deaf, it hit me that this could perfectly fit into my future career. I am good at art and design, and that’s why I decided to make it part of my journey and life passion,” she said.

A few years later, Clare’s mum saw an advertisement for Australia Awards Scholarships in the newspaper and encouraged Clare to apply. Clare was  successful and went on to study a Bachelor of Design in Interactive and Visual Design at Queensland University of Technology. She graduated in 2020.

Her Australia Awards Scholarship enabled her to connect with the deaf community and other students in Australia who have been supportive throughout her studies – something she holds close to her heart. “We keep in touch now and then. We have become close like family,” she says.

Clare describes the scholarship as a huge game changer. “Today you will see me as a proud, confident woman who is sure of herself. I would not be who I am today without this scholarship.”

Her advocacy for disability inclusion has pushed her to amplify the voices of PWDs and contributed to the development of a Disability Inclusive Communication Guide in PNG. Today, she is the co-chair of the National Capital District Deaf Association and treasurer for Papua New Guinea Women in Disability Network. Her work highlights the importance of united action to make society inclusive and informed on the challenges faced by PWDs in PNG.

“I find it challenging at times but mostly rewarding when I facilitate or do a presentation or speech at gatherings and workshops, I know I am helping my community to break barriers every time I do that. It gives me joy and I find my purpose in doing so,” she explained.

Clare is as committed as ever to making a difference through her graphic design skills and sign language. She recently participated in a Professional Fellowship Program in the United States of America under the East West Centre.

“I have learnt so much from well-respected deaf professionals at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, New York. I look forward to improving special education inclusive toolkits in PNG like the Sign Language Dictionary and encouraging PWDs to participate in the SME sector. I hope that in the next five to ten years, sign language can be taught and used in schools in PNG.”

In her spare time, Clare creates educational videos to encourage Papua New Guineans to learn Melanesian and Australian Sign Languages through her YouTube channel (Signing with Clarebear).

Clare dreams of running her own design business someday. To date, she has worked in various spaces as a freelance graphic designer for Paradise Foods Limited, UN Women PNG Co., Australia Awards PNG and the Justice Services and Stability for Development Program.