Richard Habelrih - Westfield Local Heroes 2020
Having his say
Courageous. Positive. Determined.
Richard Habelrih has severe autism, and doctors told his parents he would never speak. But he has proved them wrong and has grown up to be a popular public speaker.
Richard is regularly invited to speak at schools and conferences, where he enjoys spreading his message of kindness.
One of the highlights at schools is his Best MATES puppet show.
"I play Tommy the Turtle because he is a bit like me. He didn't fit in, so some of the animals don't like him to join their party. It's important to teach kids about being nice," Richard says.
He has a special reminder when he speaks at medical and teacher conferences.
"I like to tell doctors and teachers that I can understand what they are saying and I like it when they talk to me, not just to my mum. That's important."
He was a keynote speaker at the NSW Independent Schools conference in 2019 and was voted the most memorable and impactful speaker.
Richard ends each speech with some moving thoughts. "I always say I have dreams like you, I like to have friends, I like to have a job, and I'd like to live in my own place one day."
Westfield Local Heroes are nominated and voted for by their communities, with the three top finalists per Westfield centre each awarded a $10,000 grant for their affiliated organisation. Autism MATES will use its grant to create an animated version of his puppet show for viewing at schools and on the internet.
For further information on the Westfield Local Heroes program, click here