Peter ‘Chip’ Cipollone was born in Italy in 1954 and migrated to Australia at the age of eight. He experienced being a migrant in a new country where he could not speak English, at a time when society was openly prejudiced towards people from different cultures. He explains that this helped him to understand the experience of deafness and the Deaf Community. He knew the feeling of powerlessness that comes from discrimination and lack of communication, and this influenced his passion to achieve access and equality for Deaf people. Throughout his career many Deaf people were drawn to Peter’s committed approach to work. The respect was mutual and many in the Deaf Community regard him as a trusted friend.
Peter joined the Deaf Society of NSW as a welfare worker in 1977 and he later became the Senior Welfare Worker. After four years at the Society, he decided to try his hand in the building industry for a few years. In 1984 he returned to work with the Deaf Community when he was appointed to a community group chaired by John Ferris, to establish the Adult Education Centre for Deaf and Hearing Impaired People, (now known as DEN).
In 1986 Peter became a Liaison Officer for the Deaf at the NSW Department of Industrial Relations & Employment where he provided career advice and job placement assistance to Deaf school leavers. He established the “Deaf Liaison Project” with the Commonwealth Employment Service. Caroline Conlon joined him in the second year by which time they had placed over 200 Deaf people into jobs and vocational training programs. Peter later moved to TAFE Sydney and Northern Sydney Institutes as a Consultant for Deaf students, continuing in this role for over 20 years.
Throughout these years, Peter was also a member of several voluntary committees lobbying the Government for access to telecommunications, including the provision of TTYs and relay services. As Honorary Chairman of Deafness Resources Australia, he was involved in its merger with the Queensland organisation Deaflink to form Australian Communication Exchange (ACE), which successfully tendered to the Commonwealth to establish the National Relay Service (NRS) in 1995. This was an especially proud event for Peter who was awarded a life membership of ACE in recognition of his involvement.
Between 1990 and 1992, Peter took two years leave from TAFE to help establish the Tasmanian Deaf Society where he worked as its Executive Director. In January 2006 he became Principal of RIDBC’s Thomas Pattison School at North Rocks, a position he held for three years before retiring in 2009. He established the Higher School Certificate Bursary Program for Senior Students from TPS to undertake the Higher School Certificate at Hills Grammar School.
Now retired, Peter lives in Wentworth Falls and enjoys looking after his grandchildren with his wife Jacqueline ‘Jac’ Cipollone whom he met whilst at high school. He continues to work part time both at TAFE and as a heritage consultant undertaking building restoration work.
Conversation with Peter Cipollone 13/10/13