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!