Cynic? Who me? and I wonder why? by Gary Kerridge

Deaf Children Australia is a reasonably rich deafness organisation that was set up in the 19th century by a Deaf man, Frederick John Rose. Originally this organisation was set up as a school for the deaf and later expanded to become a service  provider. Over a hundred years later the organisation still exists. Its purpose, at the moment, seems to be to swallow up every deaf services organisation in Australia. The Australian Deaf community have a great deal of cynicism regarding the motives of the organisation. The question on every one’s lips or hands is, “What will they or HE do next?”

The people that run Deaf Children Australia and their partners believe that Australia needs a national deaf services organisation. Currently Deaf Children Australia has a partnerships with two other Australian deaf services organisations. They work in partnership, seemingly sharing resources, administration, governance, business, financial services and blah blah. They remain separate companies but have one CEO – the CEO signature on emails reads CEO – Deaf Children Australia, Deaf Services Queensland and Western Australian Deaf Society, rather like a roll call of honour that cries POWER!  This POWER in the hands of one person is what worries so many in the Australian Deaf community and deaf services sector.

The cynics, of which I am one, believe that the motive behind the expansion of Deaf Children Australia is one of ambition rather than a desire to develop a stronger deafness sector. The cynics believe the issue is one of control rather than one of efficiencies. The cynics believe that Deaf Children Australia are spreading its considerable resources too thinly in the name of control and power. The traditionalist want a return to community links and services instead of grandiose business ideas.

The cynics believe that the term partnership is nothing more than a front. It’s a nice term that leads people to believe that everyone is working together with shared visions, equal input and equal power. This is nonsense because part of the reason that the partnerships were set up was because the partnership organisations were in such a dire financial situation that they needed DCA money to get them out of trouble. The cynics believe, nay they know, that the POWER lies with the one who has the money, which is Deaf Children Australia.

In the interest of fairness it is necessary to list the “For Arguments”. In a perfect world  we would have one Australia wide deafness service. It would have one management structure servicing all the state based branches. It would have one brand which will increase fundraising. State government’s would recognise it and fund it accordingly. Funds would be distributed evenly so that all states had equal service. Streamlined management would lead to funds being alloocated for better services in regional and rural areas.  These are the FOR arguments. BUT – are they realistic?

Having been in the disability sector in Australia for 20 years I honestly do not believe they are. Australia funds its service organisations very much on a state basis. South Australia funds very differently to Victoria as does Western Australia. Queensland is a different kettle of fish again. The reality is there are huge discrepancies in state funding. The partnership model does not address these discrepancies. As such, unless Deaf Children Australia are prepared to top up funding to ensure equity accross the states nothing much will change. What is more, it means that money that is for Deaf Children Australia’s core business – children – is being directed away from that core business.

The aim of Deaf Children Australia is, in the future, that the partner organisations become one Deaf Services Australia. If, right now, Deaf Services Australia existed as a one organisation it would have to deal with the huge discrepancies of funding from the states. Presumably a Deaf Services Australia would distribute any fundraising moneys equally so funding was equitable – not equal equitable! How they would work this out is anyone’s guess.

It is argued that a one brand will help with fundraising. Quite how is not clear. Theoretically it could but the reality is that deafness has always been the poor cousin when it comes to donations. The public give to visible and well known charities like the Salvos, RSPCA and the Blind. One brand will not change the public perception. Deafness will still be the poor cousin. It is questionable whether the money and resources spent on Developing a Deaf Services Australia will make much dent into the public fundraising psyche. In theory it sounds good but there is no evidence to show that the one brand will increase fundraising to deafness in anyway. The probabilities are that it will not. Some huge losses have been made in recent fundraising initiatives in the deafness area and with the current Credit Crunch fundraising is unlikely to improve in any great way.

Deaf Children Australia talk of a shared services model that will be marketed under the one banner of Deaf Services Australia. Presumable they feel it will improve services nationally, increase fundraising dollars and lead to better services all round. Quite how this will occur has not been fully explained. The model is flawed because it fails to take into account state politics and funding. The model has an unrealistic view that the one brand will somehow make a huge difference to fundraising. This authors view is that it wont and in the haste to TAKE OVER Australia blind ambition has gotten in the way of rational argument.

In the meantime, while thousands of dollars are spent trying to set up the model and while boards and management spend countless hours flying around Australia and staying in Hotels at great expense the dedicated services staff of Deaf Children Australia try to maintain services while the focus is elsewhere. It is a  sacrilege that thousands of dollars are being spent on what will most likely make very little difference. What Deaf Children Australia could do is to service Victorian deaf children well with its considerable wealth. Instead it has chosen to spread itself thinly around Australia in what the cynics see as a mindless power grab. Will it improve services in anyway? This cynic thinks not. For the sake of our deafness sector one can only hope that the plan succeeds because the heritage that great Deaf pioneers like FJ Rose established is in real danger of being lost.

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Desma Hunt's Diaries #6

It is official. Deaf people mean nothing to Channel 9 or even Australia. We are inconsequental, know nothing morons who sit in the dark and gibber.

People who are deaf, according to Channel 9,  dont need access to information. The only information they will give people who are deaf is information that they must so that they do not get fined. How else can you explain why they have cut their captioning content from 83% to something like 55%. Coke once advertised that, “Things Go Better with Coke.” – Well lets sing to the same tune, “Things are lousy at 9”

But it is not just Channel 9. It seems to be the whole mentality of this sodding country. People who are deaf do not matter. Here we are in Australia, a rich country, putting up with what can only be seen as paltry amounts of access. Recently the Australian Human Rights Commission gave the free to air television companies an extension on their need to increase captioning. What was it? 5 years or something and I bet they will get another 5 years in 5 years. The Commonwelath government gave us the $5 million dollars over five years to meet ALL our Auslan interpreting needs in employment. After 21 years of age we may as well chuck out our hearing aids cos the commonwealth Giovernment wont buy us anymore til we are 65. Spend millions making us hear then take it away. Talk about taking candy from a kid.

In America captioning is coming out of its rear end and in Britain Employment Support is ongoing for the life of your employment. In Denmark they provide you with a free laptop for phone access anywhere anytime. All this for the deaf. Yet in Australia, a comparably rich country, we have access to captioning when TV decides it can afford it. We have employment support over five years that in total, for all Deaf Australians, wont even by you a house in Sydney’s Western Suburbs and we have to hope our hearing aids dont die on us when we are 21 .. Which they usually do a year or so after we turn 21.

ENOUGH. Australia can afford it … NIKE Kevin – NIKE!!

Im Desma Hunt, I’m deaf and Australia is a suckhole of excuses!

Lessons from Obama

A slave becomes president. Now that’s Karma. Barack Obama is the president elect of the United States of America. He is America’s first ever Black president. It’s been a long time in coming but the conquered are now the conquerors. If Obama got anything right it was in his slogan “Yes We Can.”

“Can we change?” asks Obama and then swiftly answers his own question, “Yes we Can!” The questions rolled off his tongue “Can we beat Racism?” – “Yes we can!”; “Can we create peace and prosperity?” – “Yes we Can!”  The cliches run of his tongue like water cascading down a waterfall, but it is inspiring and America has bought it. And thank god for that! It’s a long way from Obama’s ancestors chained to the bottom of a boat, transported thousands of miles, sold to the highest bidder and then more often than not abused.

Obama won – That’s Karma!

Deaf people and any people who face discrimination should be inspired by Obama. We should adopt his slogan – ” Yes we can!” Ask the question – “Can we have 100% captioning.” – Answer it at the top of your voice or with the most assertive and flamboyant signing you can muster – “YES WE CAN!” Ask the question – “Can we run our own lives and organisations?” Answer it with gusto – “YES WE CAN!”  Ask the question – “Can we make Australia provide for all our communication needs?” What’s the answer?  “YES WE CAN!”

What Obama has shown, as Nelson Mandela had shown before him is that the little people can win. From descendant of slaves to leader of the free world! If that’s possible, well the small matter of 100% captioning should be a piece of cake. It’s already happening in America!  Me thinks we accept too little – “Can we get more?” – “YES WE CAN!” You just gotta believe.

Desma Hunt's Diaries #5

What fabulous news it was to hear that Deaf Australia won the tender to provide Auslan Training for the Queensland Education Department. The Queensland Education Department allocated $30 million over five years to introduce Auslan to the schools. I don’t know how much went to Deaf Australia but it would be a significant amount of money. OOOOOOOH I wish it was me!

Even better they beat the nasty Empire Builder to the tender. The Empire Builder doesn’t get involved in peanuts. He only goes for things that will make him look big and important. That Deaf Australia won is the BEST news the Deaf community has had for a long time. That the Empire Builder lost is EVEN BETTER!!

BUT .. and there is always a but – No sooner than Deaf Australia won than the whingers came out of the cupboard. “Deaf Australia are an advocacy organisation, they cant provide services.” .. ” The courses they provide are little baby courses.”  – ” They don’t have the experience.”  And out they came with negatives left right and centre. Well let me remind you that Auslan is the language of the Deaf community and the Deaf community own it. Who better to teach the Queensland people than a Deaf run Deaf organisation?

It is a vote of confidence for Deaf people and we should all be proud! To the whingers I say, ” Get back in the cupboard.” Who would you prefer Deaf Australia or the Empire Builder? …. As Yoda would say ” Be with the Force may you.”  And may the force be with Deaf Australia on this one. It’s either that or Darth Vader.

Have Boots Will Travel

Congratulations to Deaf Australia on winning the tender for providing Auslan training for the Queensland Education Department. It is fantastic news for them and Deaf people in general. It is fantastic news because it recognises that Deaf people and their families own Auslan. It is therefore fitting that they should be in control of teaching it.

Rumour has it that Deaf Australia beat off a joint submission put in by the empire builder, Deaf Children Australia and Deaf Services Queensland. That is millions of dollars of fire power against little old Deaf Australia and Deaf Australia won. Talk about David against Goliath. It is a fabulous achievement that should not be underestimated. I have criticised Deaf Australia in the past for their inability to work constructively with Deafness Forum but that is a different issue. The achievement to win this tender was enormous.

I was even more happy to hear that Donnovan Cresdee has been appointed to lead the program. Dr Don achieved his Phd last year. His research centred on differences in grammar between Auslan and English and had great relevance to how we teach Auslan. Dr Don has been a loyal servant to the Deaf community and when I heard that he was involved in heading the program I was rapt.

What has all this to do with Have Boots Will Travel. Well Dr Don has had to move to Queensland for this role. Based in Adelaide, where he has been lived for most of his life, he has had to move away from family and friends to take up this post. He will commute and will get great support from his wife, Alex, but it would have been a heart wrenching decision to make. But that is often the lot of the Deaf professional.

Dr Don is no stranger to moving around. To further his education he attended Gallaudet University in America. His Phd was supervised  under the Charles Sturt University in Darwin. In the last few years Dr Don has had to travel Australia, working in Sydney and Melbourne just to put his considerable talents to use and to achieve his Phd. It is true that hearing people have to move around too but for Deaf professionals an open airline ticket should be offered with their qualifications.

Dr Don owes his new job to Gail Smith and her family who took the Queensland Education Department to court for the lack of Auslan provision to her daughter. After a struggle that lasted several years Gail’s family won their case but not before they had to pack up and leave their family and friends so that their daughter could get access to Auslan in her education. Her victory came at great personal and financial burden. Years from now the Deaf community will be thankful to Gail’s family for their courage to keep fighting. It seems travel and drama are almost a prerequisites of the Deaf and their families. Perhaps Deaf Australia should honour Gail’s family by naming the new program after their daughter.

Myself, just to further my career, have lived in Adelaide, London, Queensland, Sydney, Melbourne Alice Springs and now Ballarat. My home and heart is in Adelaide but their simply are no opportunities there for the Deaf professional. I could stay and try to compete with hearing people for jobs but recognise i would be facing an uphill battle. I have to go where the work is and I do. Dr Don has had to do that too.

Others have had to move too. Look at where our modern Deaf pioneers are now. Colin Allen is in the Balkans or is it Cambodia? Robert Adam is in London.  My great friend Paul Bartlett is also in London and unable to come home to Australia simply because their are no opportunities for him. My wife and I had to move to Alice Springs simply so she could get experience as a Teacher of the Deaf, something she could not achieve in Adelaide. We are a transient lot us Deaf people – but not by choice.

I had a debate with a friend on the weekend who suggested that our Deaf organisations have no obligation to promote Deaf professionals over hearing professionals.  He suggested that our Deaf organisations are only obliged to ensure that they achieve the bottom line goal of survival with minimal risk. Therefore, said my friend, if Deaf professionals apply for jobs with Deaf organisations and get beaten by more experienced hearing people then that is just too bad. How do we compete? How do we get 15 or 20 years experience in various roles when we face an uphill battle to access interpreters, captions and access to information that hearing people take for granted?  My friend could not answer that question.

Do Deaf organisations have a responsibility to promote Deaf people over hearing people? You bet your mother they do. Why? Simply because if they cant take a risk on Deaf professionals then they have no right to tell the wider community to do so too.  It is not the role of Deaf organisations to save each and every Deaf person but by promoting Deaf people to management roles at least they practice what they preach. At the moment, bar one or two, our Deaf organisations are the worlds worst hypocrites.

So congratulations Deaf Australia. The Auslan tender win is a feather in your cap. If the Queensland Education Department can put their faith in a Deaf run Deaf organisation to run a multi-million dollar program then surely this is an example for others to follow. To YOU – and YOU know who you are – Sit up and take notice!

This Speaking Voice of Mine is Nothing But Trouble – Submitted by Billy Thatcher

I speak…fluently…but it’s not fair that hearing people can understand me while I have the hardship of ‘listening’ them back.  I am totally deaf.  So, what’s the point in my speaking in the first place if I cannot understand them?

When I was younger, my hearing loss was not so bad.  I was diagnosed with a mild hearing loss.  This greatly helped in conversations with hearing people.  As I got older, my hearing gradually got worse and now I am profoundly deaf.  What good is my talking voice when I am profoundly deaf and having such difficulties hearing and lip-reading the hearing people that I am talking to?

It’s much easier for me to engage in legalities by writing as it enforces the communicator to write back, even though they’re hesitant to do so.  After all, I get to keep the paper of what has been stated between us.  In fact, I have used these written statements as evidence of previous conversations to my benefit when needed.

Those who speak and are proud of their talking voices…good for you, but from my point of view…whoopie do!  Yes, my talking voice can be understood, I speak…but, I can’t hear or understand others!  It’s not that I disrespect anybody for being ignorant, I simply can not hear and its hard’n’stressful for me to wisten (a combination of Watching and Listening; although, it’s not a word).

I am concerned about the false encouragement given to many deaf people who speak. Many are often told that they ‘speak fluently and crystal clear’, when the fact is, they have a horrible sounding voice. This false encouragement leads to the deaf/HI person believing that they have a pleasant voice when the reality is that their voice sounds horrible. Unfortunately, these false assurances cause great pain when the deaf person finds out that they actually have an awful sounding voice.

To this day, my parents insist that I speak well. I am skeptical about it and try to keep verbal speech to a minimum.  Auslan to me is for keeps and it allows me to communicate effortlessly.  This is how it should be … ‘communicating effortlessly’.

People nowadays want to communicate effortlessly. But professionals and authorities such as the Education Department and schools with philosophies that disregard sign language think speaking is the solution to communicating effortlessly.  It’s not, not for those who are deaf or who sustain heavy hearing loss later in their life. After all it is a fact of life that most of us lose a degree of hearing as we get older.

There are many older folks who have hearing difficulties and still speak fluently; however, they still have a hard time trying to understand what is being said by others.  Communication between carers, families and friends of these individuals is often strained. If only, people learned sign language they could communicate effortlessly with anyone at anytime especially those who are Deaf or who have lost their hearing.  That is, if they do not have any other problems with their body.  We should all admire Scandinavian countries and other countries who implement mandatory sign language in their schooling programs.

Between English and sign language, which method would be better for communication between those who sustain hearing loss and those who have no hearing loss? The answer is straight forward – Sign language! We know that everyone loses at least some of their hearing as they age. For those that lose their hearing completely what good is speaking?!

People, institutions, or any others that endorse the philosophy of speech over sign language are bloody idiots. They are contributing to the undeniable consequences of communication hardship. Of course, taking up sign language is a personal preference, but don’t say I didn’t warn you and I wish you all a peaceful old age.

(The Rebuttal thanks Billy for his submission. It outlines many frustrations that many Deaf and HOH people experience. We are happy to print Billy’s views; just remember the views are Billy’s alone.)

Ranting

I rant” said comedian Dennis Miller, “therefore I am.” Miller was a funny guy, he also said, “..a recent poll showed that you are very much more likely to be shot by a fat cop if you run.” Miller is spot on about ranting. We rant so that people know we exist. We simmer and finally boil over – The rant comes and the world knows that right here is a person that feels strongly about something and they sit up and take notice.

What is ranting?  The Brainy Quotes website defines ranting as – To rave in violent, high-sounding, or extravagant language, without dignity of thought; to be noisy, boisterous, and bombastic in talk or declamation; as, a ranting preacher. If you look at free online dictionaries they tend to define a rant as a violent speech that incites anger. But a rant does not have to be violent a more sedate definition can be found at The Free Dictionary which defines a rant as to – Talk in a loud and excited way.

And this is generally what a rant is. It is a person that has become so incited, so excited or so angry about something that they have to let the world know. It doesn’t have to be angry. The sports fan can be so excited about their favourite team that they can rant about them with joy. In the same breath they can become so upset about an umpires decision that they can begin an angry rant about why umpires are the devils incarnate. People rant about injustice and they rant about joy and they rant about exciting experiences. A rant is just someone expressing their thoughts in an excited and enthusiastic way.

Ranting does not always get the desired result. The sportsperson can rant at the referee for an absurd decision and the referee can show his displeasure of the rant by issuing a red card. The politician can rant about what he she sees as government mismanagement to which the government usually responds by reminding the politician that his party was once in power and now it his their turn NA NA NA!. The wife can rant about the lack of help around the house to which the husband usually responds to by pretending to look busy. From these examples one would think that ranting is counter productive. So why do it?

We rant because we know that our rants, done well, can rally people. On this site we recently had a rant about those awful Cora Barclay Ads. It struck a chord with readers throughout the world. They rallied behind and said how terrible the ads were. When people rally change can happen. Often this is why people rant – simply to voice displeasure and make change.

Rants can be done by voice or they can be done with actions. In 1968 Olympics in Mexico who could ever forget Black Power. The following was taken from an article in the Sydney Morning Herald; It remains one of the most vivid Olympic images – a picture once seen, never forgotten. It was courageous, non violent protest, benign but impassioned dissent. They meant to bring further attention to ciovil rights issues, to give pride to African-Americans, and they succeeded.

Make no mistake the actions of the two black athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos including the white Australian, Peter Norman were a rant. A smart rant, a silent rant and an effective rant. The two black athletes simply had had enough, there anger could no longer be hidden. With their simple black gloved salute they screamed louder than any voice – “Racism is unacceptable, inequality is unacceptable – We and black people have had enough LISTEN”

For their trouble Smith and Carlos were branded black Nazis. They were branded as being disrespectful of the American Flag. They were expelled from the Olympics. They received death threats and rocks through their windows. Smith was thrown out of the army for un-American activities.  “There are still threats,” Carlos said. “I was never concerned about those punks. I just let them know it will be remembered, that life doesn’t stop when you leave this planet.” (Sydney Morning Herald) Make no mistake the world did remember.

Ranting can also be used to install fear. It can be used to make people do things that humans would otherwise not do. Hitler, Idi Amin and Stalin were all effective ranters that did enormous damage. Used in the wrong way ranting can cause unspeakable pain. Unfortunately these ranters stand out. They give ranters with true intentions a bad name.

Make no mistake we need to rant. Sometimes we need to rant to make change and other times we need to rant simply to get it off our chest. The late Kurt Cobain once said;  My generation’s apathy, I’m disgusted by it. I’m disgusted with my own apathy too, for being spineless and not alwats standing up against racism, sexism and all other isms the counterculture has been whining about for years. Simply put, say nothing then nothing changes, you will only have yourself to blame.

Then and again Abraham Lincoln also said; ” Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt” There lies the dilemma of the ranter but remain silent at your peril.