Sometimes you have something on your mind that you just have to get out. It sits there and bothers you when you should be focusing on other things like work or that short four foot putt that you need to sink. Today is one of those days. Perhaps I really need to get a life because surely there are nicer and more exciting things to worry about than what I am about to offload.
I was chatting the other day with a group of friends about our representative Deaf and hearing impaired organisations. We have two – Deafness Forum and Deaf Australia. These two organisations are like chalk and cheese yet are almost essentially the same. DF represent a whole range of issues including hearing health, parents, education, access, Deaf people, captions, hearing technology and anything else under the sun that comes under the banner of “hearing loss:. Deaf Australia represents the Deaf community and issues that affect them. Most of them include exactly what DF represent with the exception in that they focus solely on the Deaf community, the rights of the Deaf community and protecting Auslan – these issues they OWN and protect like a rabid dog with a bone.
…..these issues they OWN and protect like a rabid dog with a bone.
DF of course claim to represent everything that DA do too. DA doesn’t want DF to represent anything to do with the Deaf community. For DA they would rather DF focus on hearing health and that stuff and leave anything to do with the Deaf community to them. The problem is “Hearing Health and that stuff” often overlap and include the Deaf community. For example Deaf people wear hearing aids and want access to them and repairs throughout their life. DF represents that argument and DA SHOULD represent it too. Other issues that overlap include education, captioning, communication access and so on. The two organisations represent Deaf and hearing impaired people on nearly all issues bar say hearing loss prevention and tinnitus. On the latter I am sure there are Deaf people that suffer from tinnitus, so maybe that overlaps too.
Now DA want DF to take a running jump on anything that is relevant to Auslan. Auslan, say DA, is their domain SOLELY. DA want DF to leave Auslan alone to the point of removing reference to Deaf people in their constitution. DA would like a clause in the DF constitution that acknowledges Auslan and Deaf people as the SOLE domain of DA.
DF will not do this. They rightly point out that they have Deaf members too. They argue that too many of the issues overlap. That much of what they advocate affects Deaf people as well as hearing Impaired and blah blah blah we have an impasse. Neither organisation will budge and US, the tax paying Deaf and hearing impaired people of Australia, watch in bewilderment as the two organisations war with each other. “Its MINE” says one president – “ITS OURS TOO” says the other – and the two children continue their squabble ad-infinitum.
I can’t claim from this quick glance at the websites of these organisations to understand the politics that go on within them
I wonder if Australia is the only place in the world that is like this. I took the liberty of goggling deaf advocacy in England, Canada and America. I came up with organisations like the Royal Association of the Deaf in the UK, Orange County Deaf Advocacy in the US and the Canadian Deaf Legal and Advocacy Services. I picked all these at random. Not ONE, I repeat not ONE, represented only Deaf or only hearing impaired people. The advocacy services of these organisations covered the broad spectrum of Deaf and hearing impaired issues.
I can’t claim from this quick glance at the websites of these organisations to understand the politics that go on within them BUT at a glance they seem to quite happily blend the needs of the various groups into one compact service.
I would not be so naive to assume that these organisations are without their conflicts. I am sure there are plenty of disagreements within. It just seems that everywhere I look that advocacy agencies around the world have managed to put political differences aside, find some common ground and advocate for the needs off both the Deaf and hearing impaired successfully. Perhaps Bill Shorten should give DF and DA some money to jointly research how these agencies operate successfully with the view of doing the same in Australia. As it stands it just seems so much time and money are being spent by DF and DA duplicating each other.
I am well aware of past injustices to the Deaf community. Timothy, on the now defunct AAD Discussion page, was fond of evoking the spectrum of the Milan conferences in the 1880’s. I am well aware of the battle that people like Colin Allen and Robert Adam fought to have the Deaf community and Auslan recognised. I am also well aware that these gains were hard fought and that the Deaf community are rightly suspicious and slightly mistrusting lest these hard earned gains be lost. However, smart individuals and organisations learn from past mistakes and move forward and find better ways to meet the needs of their target groups.
The current situation between DF and DA has gone beyond a joke. Bill Shorten and his head Minister, (Is it Jenny Maklin?) should tell the two of them to get together and sort it out. They should tell them “SORT IT OUT OR WE WILL FOR YOU” All they need to do is learn some lessons from the past and move forward. If DA and DF can not do this then the only losers are US, the long suffering, tax paying and bewildered Deaf and hearing impaired individuals of Australia.