Burleigh resident Marlena Katene with her communicator Bert Hibbert.
Burleigh resident Marlena Katene with her communicator Bert Hibbert. Blainey Woodham

Marlena’s story is an inspiration

MARLENA Katene is an inspiration to everyone who meets her.

At just 18, the Burleigh native gives motivational speeches, runs a small jumping castle business, and has just graduated with a Diploma of Business Management.

But Ms Katene was born with cerebral palsy and does not speak.

Communicating through a story board on her wheelchair, and with an electronic speaking aid called a dynovox; Ms Katene said she was determined not to make her life be about people caring for her.

“I know I will need care for some things in my life,” she said. “But that is only one part.”

She wants a career and to give back to the community.

“I started out doing motivational workshops and presentations on disability issues about three years ago,” Ms Katene said.

“I also contribute to a number of disability advocacy magazines.”

She converses through a man named Bert Hibbert, using his hand to spell out words and sentences on her story board.

“It’s a lot like translating for a deaf person,” Mr Hibbert said.

Graduating from TAFE last December, Ms Katene said she would communicate to Mr Hibbert what she wanted to say in her assignments, and he would type it on the computer.

“For my presentations and speeches, depending on length, I either input my words into the dynovox, or record one of my friend’s voices,” she said.

This year Ms Katene begins a Bachelor of Communication at Griffith University.

“I also run a small jumping castle business, where I rent out the castles to markets and birthday parties,” she said.

Gold Coast TAFE chief executive officer Aaron Devine said Ms Katene also received an encouragement award when she graduated.

“She displayed exceptional leadership and teamwork qualities and was very popular with her classmates,” he said.

Ms Katene plans to go to Europe in July, to present at an augmentative communication conference in Barcelona.

Anyone interested in Ms Katene’s motivational work can visit www.marlena.com.au.



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