Collaborate or Die! By Gary Kerridge

What I am about to write, I probably should not. I am a Board member of Deafness Forum Australia. Protocol dictates that I should not comment on this issue. However, I am so saddened and frustrated by what has occurred I feel that I must comment. In commenting I wish to make it very clear. These views are my own. They do not represent those of Deafness Forum Australia. For any embarrassment I am about to cause them I apologise now. I am prepared to accept any consequences that come my way.

Members and organisations that serve the Deaf community received a media release from Deaf Australia yesterday.  In no uncertain terms they requested that Deafness Forum Australia butt out. Deafness Forum Australia had released a policy paper supporting and arguing for Australia to recognise Auslan (Australian Sign Language) as one of Australia’s official languages. One would have thought that Deaf Australia would have been supportive of such an idea. To be fair, they are, but they feel that Deafness Forum Australia should not comment on anything to do with Auslan. This, they feel, is the sole domain of Deaf Australia.

Australia currently recognises Auslan as a community language but not an official one. Currently Australia has a national language, which is English, but in recognition of its cultural diversity does not acknowledge English as an official language, in fact it has no official languages. There is a lot of debate occurring about what should and should not be an official language in Australia. The benefits of Auslan, or any language, as an official language is that it provides it with legal status. In terms of education, access to employment or even the courts this, potentially, could provide better access for Auslan using Australians. Auslan is currently recognised as the language of the Deaf community. While this is powerful it does not offer the same legal status as recognition as an official language, potentially, can

As Australia is debating the issue of official languages, it currently has none, Deafness Forum have decided to strategically open discussion about the need for Australia to consider Auslan as an official language. That is what it is at the moment – a discussion in which Deafness Forum Australia have invited Deaf people and the organisations that represent it to contribute to so that while the debate on official languages is under consideration in Australia,  Auslan is at the forefront.

It is all quite complicated. Alex Jones, the president of Deafness Forum Australia has developed a comprehensive discussion paper for the Deaf community and its representatives to consider. I had a role in making suggested changes but the work is mainly that of Alex and he should get full credit.  This paper, a valuable contribution to the official languages debate, has been distributed widely for discussion.

It is about here that Deaf Australia jumped in. Yesterday they sent out a media release. The release requested that Deafness Forum Australia withdraw the discussion paper. Why? Because. in their words, the discussion is already out there. Deaf Australia claim that they already have a policy paper on their website that requests, The Australian Government and state governments to abolish any remaining obstacles to the use of Auslan as the primary and everyday language of Deaf people, e.g., as a language of education’

Deaf Australia recognise that they have never considered or presented a case for the recognition of Auslan as an official language but they feel anything that they have presented previously suggests pretty much the same thing. In short Deaf Australia has told Deafness Forum that comment on Auslan is the sole domain of Deaf Australia alone.

Deaf Australia, in there media release, make the astonishing claim that Deafness Forum are being disrespectful of them by releasing a discussion paper that focuses on recognition of Auslan as an official language. They claim that they were not consulted. That Deafness Forum has so few Deaf members that it has no right to comment on Auslan at all.

Let me make one thing clear. Deafness Forum have, on numerous occasions, tried to collaborate with Deaf Australia on issues relevant to Auslan and have been told in no uncertain terms NO! Deafness Forum, as part of their funding contract with the Federal Government, must represent issues relevant to Deaf people. The discussion paper on Auslan as an official language  has to be submitted to the Government AND before submitting it they have sought feedback from Deaf people and Deaf organizations.

The major author of the paper, Alex Jones, is an Auslan user, has a child who is an Auslan user AND the mother of his child is an Auslan user. Alex has chosen to represent this discussion paper through Deafness Forum and has extensive contacts with the Deaf community. It is entirely within his rights to advocate as he sees fit and through whatever organization he chooses. It is not Deafness Forum who is being disrespectful. It is Deaf Australia!

 I recognize that Deaf Australia are the primary organisation that represents Auslan in Australia. I recognize the work of people like Colin Allan,  Robert Adam. Dot Shaw and the like who worked so hard to have Auslan promoted, taught and recognized. This discussion paper released by Deafness Form recognizes this work, supports it and gives Deaf Australia a platform to continue to lobby for the legal representation of Auslan.

How much easier it would have been for Deaf Australia to be politically smart. Why could they not have welcomed the Deafness Forum discussion paper. The smart response would have been to congratulate Deafness Forum on their discussion paper, point out the previous work and recognition that was achieved by Deaf Australia in the past in relation to Auslan and invite Deafness Forum to work collaboratively on the issue. They could even have respectfully requested that Deafness Forum allow Deaf Australia to lead the discussion from now on.

If they felt aggrieved at being left out of the loop, what is wrong with a simple private email stating the fact. Did they really need to send out this ridiculous press release? The press release only succeeded in making Deaf Australia look like an organization that wishes to go it alone, an organization with no political smarts and one that is either unwilling or unable to collaborate with others.

The parliamentary Secretary for Disability, Bill Shorten, has stated on several occasions this year that the Government is fed up with the disability sector. In fact I believe he described it as a “Rabble”. He has expressed his frustration that disability advocacy organisations are constantly sending conflicting messages to the Government and as such it is often easier for the Government to ignore them completely. Here was an issue, Auslan as an official language, that Deaf Australia could have used and built on to keep it firmly under the Governments noses. It had an opportunity to build and support the energy created by the discussion paper. In doing so it could have demonstrated the spirit of collaboration that the government is seeking.  The message that Bill Shorten is really giving disability advocacy representatives is – collaborate or DIE.

Instead of collaboration Deaf Australia have acted like a petulant child. A child that has spat the dummy, taken his ball and gone to a corner to play on their own. If I were a member of Deaf Australia, which I am not – and the media release reminded me why,  I would be questioning the leaders of Deaf Australia in a big way. The narrow mindedness shown in this instant, the lack of political smarts and the astounding lack of vision is just unbelievable.

I am all for Deaf Australia owning and leading debate on Auslan and Deaf community issues. With this discussion paper they had an opportunity to grasp something that would help them in their objectives. Instead they have created more friction and come out of the whole sorry saga looking like an organisation that has yet to move with the times. At the next Deaf Australia AGM I hope its members ask some tough questions of its leadership. The simple fact of the matter is that Deaf Australia needs to collaborate and mature or end up on the scrap heap!

36 thoughts on “Collaborate or Die! By Gary Kerridge

  1. (We publish this letter because we do not believe in censorship. Personal attacks are not acceptable and we urge readers to base their resposes on the issues and not how they feel about individuals.)

    UTTER RUBBISH you have spurned out… You said you are doing it on your own, not Deafness Forum but you bought it up again and again. You have swayed over and under and over the line with Deafness Forum in your hissy-fit.. I am bloody confused..

    Secondly, why do you propel Alex Jones up as Auslan User, I am bit confused as I know you can use Auslan but yet you didn’t mention anything about yourself, are you ashamed of the language that you use everyday?

    Thirdly, you said Alex Jones have extensive contacts with Deaf community, where is the earth does that come from?? We, from deaf community have not seen him, oh by the way, many, no make that MOST of us can’t stand him because he only think of himself, and thinking small of many, many deaf people. What is his personal agenda for promoting AUSLAN? expanding his profile, or his business.. I am telling you we REALLY dont need him.

    I have not seen any representatives from Deafness Forum to be involved in Deaf community whereas we have the pleasure by having variety of people from Deaf Australia prepared to roll their sleeves and get dirty with us. YOU AND ALEX JONES, hmph usually had your nose up the air..

    NOW I am very afraid what YOU, ALEX JONES and DEAFNESS FORUM since you have bring them up occasional in your spit-dummy article will do to Deaf community and its language, AUSLAN.

    I Dares you to publish this one.. OH I wont be surprised if you dont…

  2. Well flash hands. We published it. I am not sure that Alex deserved any of it, in fact I know that he did not.

    I do use Auslan, every day with my wife, through interpreters at workand the like. I have no problems with the language. use it all the time among and outside the Deaf community. It is not my first language but it is a language I am proud to use.

    Now what else do you need to know? In this article I did not get Deafness Forum permission. I sit on their Board and I know that by writing this I could embarrass them. Yes I support them in their efforts, but this article is my own personal view – not associated or to be attached with them in anyway at all.

    What will Deafness Forum do with your language. Well, nothing. Except try and get the Government to recognise it as an official language. Show that they support the idea of Auslan as an official language so that the Deaf community can have Auslan recognised in a way that it deserves. Now you and others can support this discussion and debate and assist the whole Deaf community or you can get personal, spit chips and get territorial. I suggest you all just get together as a collective and tell the Government that this is what you want. In doing so you will give Auslan the prestige it deserves.

    So hopefully this answers your questions. To Alex can I just say, I am sorry – you deserved none of that. keep up the good work.

  3. It is very disappointing that people were the subject of personal attacks and shows again, an ugly nature and significant weakness of the Deaf community, when in fact we are and can be a strong and unified community.

    I am Deaf and deaf, I am an English and Auslan user and even tertiary qualified to teach Auslan. Thought I better put that out there to reduce confusion!

    I would love to see Auslan recognised as a national language. This is a fantastic opportunity and if recognised and legalised as such, will open many more doors for Auslan users in the community.

    I frankly don’t care who makes the push for this. I do care, when fighting makes us look immature and embarrasses us in front of the powers that be i.e. the Government.

    The harsh reality of our life is that Deafness( Capital D and Auslan users) is a very small marginal group of the population. The other reality is that hearing impairment or hard of hearing or whatever other politically correct term is appropriate, has a much more significant impact. One in six Australians have a hearing impairment for crying out loud and Deaf people are included in that statistic.

    We have two organisations, neither of which I am a member of, but I have friends and family who are members of both. ( Again disclosing my personal interests!) Now, which organisation has the bigger number of representatives? It is Deafness Forum. And that is okay because they represent hearing impaired, acquired deafness ( noise or industrial related), medical deafness, oral deaf and Deaf. Deaf Australia represents only Deaf and Auslan users – a significantly smaller group. The Government is not going to play our petty games and agree to divide the line between deaf and Deaf.

    And why should they? Many of our interests are the same! Captioning access, awareness of our deafness, communication awareness and access, technology aids ( and Deaf do wear hearing aids and have cochlear implants), welfare issues, broadband issues, education, hospital access, newborn screening… the list goes on and one. We share many common interests.

    Both organisations have a very important role to play. Deaf Australia are integral to preserving the language and Deaf community and ensuring we don’t get swallowed up in a society hellbent on curing and fixing us. Deafness Forum do that too, but to a lesser extent as they also have other forms of deafness to cater for and for those groups, the medical model is the best option for them. It is a democracy we live in with freedom of choice.

    So why can’t pride get shoved and rammed down a deep, dark hole and the two organisations work together? Hell, we might even impress the Government. It is not about who is better and who should get more funding. It is about addressing the needs of members and I think in this debate, this has been sadly forgotten.

    “I am telling you we REALLY dont need him.”

    Hello?? You need everyone! You need all the deaf and Deaf people on your side. You need tolerance, acceptance, awareness. This is creating division and how do you think the Government and the community is going to see that? We basically get screwed over again. Don’t alienate the very people you are suppose to represent.

    “…having variety of people from Deaf Australia prepared to roll their sleeves and get dirty with us.”

    I’m glad there are people out there doing the ground work for us. Thank you for that. And I thank Deafness Forum also for their good work. They are rolling their sleeves and getting to the nitty gritty too. Just because it is not always “Deaf” issues does not mean they’re not working hard. They are funded to look after EVERYONE!

    “We, from deaf community have not seen him…”

    Now… there are also people like me and others who don’t get seen. It does not mean their passion is not there. Many people work behind the scenes to get things done. Sometimes a chat or some action to the right person or people can be more effective than a ” HEY LOOK AT ME!!” approach. I work with parents of deaf children, deaf/Deaf students, interpreters, CODAS, the general community and I educate them without due recognition. It is very foolish and dangerous to undermine the work of quiet achievers. And I don’t like some people in Deaf Australia and in Deafness Forum, but by God, I can put aside petty differences, pride and arrogance to work for the betterment of the Deaf and deaf communities.

    CAN YOU??

  4. Applaud applaud to Gerry Kerridge’s story and totally support Marnie’s comment. We are living in 21st century where businesses or organisations, or schools work together.
    We do need to work together to advocate better services (I don’t want to bore again but Marine clearly stated all those services we need to access.) The more the better to access the funds or whatever for deaf or hard of hearing people out there to access the services.

  5. Flash-hands response is a perfect example of why we fail (and continue to fail) to progress in the best of all Deaf and hearing impaired people in Australia.

    The fact that he/she/they would go as far as specifcially point out an individual shows to prove that these very small miniority groups cant see the forest for the trees.

    When a deaf related organisation is trying to support a major cause – and not trying to win any brownie points – it gets shot down rather than thanked.

    Instead they would rather target an individual which is laughable when they should be looking at the bigger picture.

    I agree with Marnie, there are a lot of quiet achievers doing enormous work and dont seek or expect gratitude in return. There are some who happen to get in the limelight (but strangelt they must be shot down) but it is really sad that people like Flash-hands prefer to judge based on assumption rather than fact.

    I am reminded by a mentor of mine who said if I see these sort of things, it is from people who are really jealous of what you are doing so keep doing it and do it well!

    The fact that Flash-hand representing a bunch of ‘we’ couldnt indicate who they are truly representing.

    I know there are certain Deaf people who are credited (and promoted) for doing things they have had little to no involvement in but do not have the integrity to correct or put the fcat straight. Rather they steal the efforts of others for their own personal ego / ambition.

    Deaf / deaf Australians share very common traits and needs. I have met many and all keen to work towards a common goal. Examples from Flash-hands only reinfoirces who are the ones are blocking us from making progress and at the expense of young generation.

    Working together and keeping personal / political issues aside we can move mountains.

    So reinforcing the strong message of this article – which should not just be towards Deafness Forum and Deaf Australia but also Deaf Societies and other so called deaf service sector around Australia – COLLABORATE OR YOU WILL CERTAINLY DIE!

    • As the writer of this article I must say that it was quite difficult to write. I have to say I fully support Deaf Australia leading the way on this one. It is certainly a Deaf community issue and one that Deaf Australia should be leading. I know that the discussion paper in question was not an attempt to hijack the debate. Nor was it an attempt by Deafness Forum to take over an area which is the domain of Deaf Australia. It was simply an attempt to show that Auslan needed to be recognised legally and officially.

      One would have thought that Deaf Australia would have grasped the opportunity. Rather than say MINE – they could have said – Look we have people that support our point of view. They could have pointed to the enormous body of work they have at their disposal .. The work of pioneers like Allan, Adam etal who have argued for many years that Auslan should get official recognition.

      What Deafness Forum have done is simply try and add weight to the body of work that Deaf Australia have and give strength to the argument. They have shown that they respect Auslan as an equal and not just as a community language. If Deaf Australia were smart and savvy they would have grasped the opportunity with open arms.

      Instead they have lashed out. In hindsight Deafness Forum could have consulted more closely with Deaf Australia on this issue. Regardless, the discussion paper supports and adds weight to the arguments that Deaf Australia have been putting forward for many years. It was not an attempt to disrespect or undermine, only an attempt to support.

      I urge Deaf Australia and Deafness Forum, and I include myself in this, to take a deep breath, get together and make something constructive of all this. It should never have reached this point. There is still time. Let us try and salvage something from this sorry mess.

    • Yes, and my view has not changed. Deaf Australia and Robert Adam are over reacting. The DF paper simply adds weight to what DA want to acheive and they can use it for theior benefit.

  6. I have always wondered why we have two national advocacy organisations lobbying on behalf of the Deaf community (although one does lobby for the hard of hearing sector but so what, their needs are similar to ours).

    It is confusing for the Deaf community to recognise the difference between both advocacy organisations and it must be confusing for the government also, who do they listen, who do we listen? So why are things so complicated, when the simple option is for both advocacy organisations to merge?

    I am a proud member of the Deaf community and I find it strange to have two national advocacy organisations doing the lobbying, but I’m not complaining as two is better than none, right? However, I am deeply concerned about the lack of collaboration between each other on some issues, not just this one. It creates unnecessary friction, confusion and even embarrassment. If I feel like this, imagine how the government must feel. If that’s the case, what are the effects this is having on the members of the Deaf community and their rights?

    The logical solution would be for both organisations to merge and take away the confusion from the Deaf community and Government circles. This may enable the Deaf community to be better represented and also clearer collaboration with the government, thus making better informed decisions in possibly less time.

    Merging both organisations would give it added power, better resources, clearer direction, better and more direct representation, and respect from all sides.

    Let’s be smart about it.

    • Amen Michael .. Now buy a flak jacket for the fire you are about to receive. Granted merging the organisations is not without difficulties, particularly in regard to retain ing autonomy and strength for the Deaf – But it can and has been done. Thank you for adding some sanity to this debate.

  7. My understanding has always been that Deaf Australia is the main organisation for people who use Auslan and Deafness Forum is more generalised and includes people with hearing impairment etc. For this reason, I was surprised to see a questionnaire on Auslan from Deafness Forum. Then the plot thickened with the media release from Deaf Australia saying that Deafness Forum didn’t consult with them !

    If this is right, and the questionnaire is dealing with the area they traditionally deal with, it is no surprise they are upset. It is just common courtesy for any of us to talk to people first if what we are planning to do may affect them in some way. In fact if this is what happened I think it may be premature to be discussing a merger. 🙂 Not a good start with one organisation giving its potential partner the equivalent of a one finger salute!

    On the bright side, I think this issue is going to get quickly sorted anyway as I notice that the deadline for the questionnaire is today. The number of responses that DF gets should be a pretty clear indicator of how comfortable Auslan users are with Deafness Forum taking the lead in this. If there is a good response rate, well and good – DF can take some heart from that- but if it is a low response rate well that’s a message too.

    • Karen legally and constitutionally DF must have a position on Auslan and consult with members about it. It is a rquirement of its fundung agreement that it presents different position papers to the government. These are developed in consultation with its members. Deaf Australia are well aware of this so their reaction is over the top, at best ill informed. This is all this discussion paper is A position paper that supports recognition of Auslan as an Official Language. It really is not complicated, territorial or a bid to tread on DAs toes. The over-reaction is unbelievable. The difficulty is whenever DF ask to work with DA on anything to do with Auslan they get rebuffed. A simple position paper that wants better recognition of Auslan you would think would be welcome by everyone, especially DA. It is quite frankly mind boggling.

  8. Boy.. oh boy… oh boy. This is becoming a comedy of errors.

    I have now seen DF questionaire and cannot see how this could jeporadise DA concerns or even how DA public criticism towards DF is warranted.

    If DF did not pay a courtesy call to let DA what they intend to do (and it really appears to be doing DA and the cause a favour when you think about it), maybe I can understand why DA became very concerned but surely a simple email from DA to DF asking why and the purpose of DF intent would have prevented such public mockery and humiliation that will only do DA more harm than good. In fact I think they have already done damage to their credibility.

    As one of the authors correctly said, it is no wonder these sort of actions have not won them any brownie points with the Federal Government and pretty much humilating their consituents in the process. DA should show leadership and diplomacy as their actions reflects on how the public see the Deaf community.

    I dont think these petty issues need to be aired out in the manner that I have seen to date.

    Im all for Auslan as being recognised as a language in its own right (NZ did it). If an organisation want to undertake questionaire or survey to provide further evidence and weight to the cause so be it. (Or is it because they have learnt from how badly consulted the captioning for cinema was done that they decide to do it the right way). DA should be embracing this not fearing it. DA has done some good work in the past but this one – well didnt win many jelly beans.

    As for DF, if you have made attempt to collaborate with DA on this matter in the past and DA has become too territorial then it is DA own undoing. If DF didnt then well lesson hard learnt. I hope they will have the diplomacy to respond in the appropriate manner than what we are seeing now.

  9. My view is that Deafness Forum has a secret agenda – to steal the whole funding from Deaf Australia!

    • I can understand everyone’s fear of losing Deaf Australia. That will be dictated solely by the Governmnet and it is not anything Deafness Forum have on its agenda. To suggest that it is is just stirring the pot unnecessarily.

      I would not like to see Deaf Australia swallowed up into Deafness Forum as it is currently structured. The voting structure still is open to abuse so that Deaf issues can be dominated by other issues. This is also true for other groups such as ear disorders that only have one rep. The potential is there to stack the board to push an agenda that may not be in the best interest of Deaf people. As a Board member of Deafness Forum I am constantly discussing this issue.

      I believe the current Board is very supportive and fair about Deaf issues and presents them in an unbiased way. BUT the potential for abuse of the structure remains. I would not encourage a merger until the issue of fair and equitable voting is sorted. At this point it is not.

      BUT unless Deaf Australia learn the spirit of collaboration the Government may well take the decision out of their hands and Deafness Forums hands. Their is a review of advocacy services under way, currently it is on hold.

      The reaction of Deaf Australia to the Auslan as an Official language Paper is exactly what the Government is looking for to say that both organisations are a rabble and force them into a structure that is more like a one stop shop for all disabilities. It is imperative that they work better together, the political landscape demands it.

      The warning signs are there it’s time to take them seriously.

  10. frankly the way the two organisations are carrying on they can both drown in the Australian Bight. Give me an organisation that wants to work on issues instead of carrying on like Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott .. Pathetic both of them!!

  11. Groan.

    Just saw the paper put out by DA stating their position and signed by various former Board members. A couple of things spring to mind. If these former Board members were sufficiently moved to sign this document why aren’t they still on the Board (one or two can’t they’re now living overseas)?

    Also why was it deemed necessary to drag in former Board members into the debate. Doesn’t this mean they think that the current Board are toothless?

  12. David made some very good points. One wodners if they or any will respond.

  13. Or it seems that Alex or whoever works for DF have not contacted Deaf Australia to collaborate? Or even Deaf Australia staffs? One of key staff in both organistations is a sly and stand back.

    For my view, what the heck were DF thinking on releasing the discussion paper without notification to DA while it is and still is DA’s key issues?

    • You know what the worst thing about all this is …. DF have written an open letter to DA as well explaining there discussion paper and DA, as yet, have refused to publish it. Its dirty and sad. It is really demoralising for everyone.

  14. Random …. If you read anything that has been on here some of those questions have already been answered. People are going to believe whoever they want. There was and is no ulterior motive. People are living in the 90s …. DF are not that organisation anymore. DA reaction was ill thought out, destructive and not neccessary. It has only succeeded in painting DA as an angry and aggressive organisation. They know what the govt is asking at the moment and if they don’t read the governments intensions – and soon – they will be in serious trouble.

  15. I am a former Board member of DA yet I was not approached to sign this document. If I indeed had been approached I would have said no for the very reason that it was my decision to leave the Board voluntarily and I should leave it at that and butt out of debates, unless I was officially asked to contribute or sign a paper which was also signed by current DA Board members and on DA letterhead.

    All this illustrates is the chaos that currently reigns in the Deaf industry in Oz. There are no ready answers and there seems to be little clear or firm leadership from anyone. I look back with nostalgia to the heady days of the 80s and 90s when there was real leadership and excellent role models prevailed. Look at the WFD and WDG. We managed to get these within a few years of each other, and we were thriving on the world stage as well.

    Perhaps those former leaders are genuinely worried about the state of Deafness and wish to seize back the initiative. But like Gary says it would have been better if they had signed something encouraging closer collaboration between DA and DF and not criticising DF. Another interesting thing is, most of the signatories are either currently working in or used to work in, highly politicised fields. Their jobs would have involved negotiation between parties at odds with each other and they would have been successful otherwise they would not have lasted as long as they did in these roles.

    Makes you wonder about the insularity of the deaf community, whether this is in fact healthy, whether this is making the Deaf Community stronger or this insularity is contributing towards its demise?

  16. Thank you very much David. I trust those on their self destructive path take heed of your wise words.

  17. Guys,

    Could we please at least support the DA organisation, coz it is only the Deaf consumer organisation in Australia. DA is an ordinary member of the WFD.

    It’s quite simple, if you see a lot of criticism, change the board management. Get new Deaf board members and perhaps select a new leadership and they can decide for what’s best for DA and its Deaf consumers. That Deaf consumer organisation belongs to the Australian Deaf community. The new board members doesn’t have to be good at literacy, because DA is run by Deaf people, you’ll get literacy support anyway!

    As far as I’m concerned since they acquired the service provider “The Auslan shop” and then out of the blue, they won the bid of 30 million dollars contract to provide Auslan classes for Queensland school communities. DA is now becoming a major service provider in Auslan area.

    Do you think it is okay to see the consumer organisation maintains the management of Consumer and Service Providers to look after the consumer rights?

    I don’t think so mate because it is similar to the concept of the Supply chain management (SCM). It is all about the CONTROL.

  18. Tim

    i think the whole point here is that we want to see DA continue. It is a vital organisation. The point is currently the advocacy sector is under review and the behaviour that DA has demonstrated will not put them in a good light in bthe governments eyes. The needed to have done this smarter. They have caused immense damage to their credibility.

    I agree with you. It is time for change otherwise DA will continue to struggle for credibility. You would be a great person. Why not put your hand up?

  19. Gary and DF,

    1) Why did you feel the need to create a whole new position paper on Auslan when DA has already done that?

    2) If it is true about funding requirements are linked to policy making, (which seems strange to me – as it has never been mentioned before) then can you show us any proof?
    Why didn’t DF create position papers on some other topic, and leave the Auslan issue to the fully deaf led organisation? Or refer to the DA policy instead?

    3) You seem to miss the point that DF CANNOT represent the deaf community because of its composition of the board. This also means DF cannot go to the government on behalf of the deaf community without recognising the peak body of the deaf community, which is currently DA.
    As a man, I don’t think an organisation of women and one guy is qualified to represent me. And neither should DF try to represent the deaf community. Either DF needs to change the composition of board members or change its purpose of existence.

    4) Because DF is a mixture of reps from a wide sector of Australian community, it can only be an organisation that provides SUPPORT and advice to other organisations.

    5) You also mentioned the government wants one organisation, and that is fair enough. However, the political climate now has changed since the early 1990s. There is the UNCRPD which now upholds the right of deaf people to be represented by an organisation that is FULLY compromised of deaf people. Thus, DA now has more rights to represent the deaf community.
    The result of this landmark declaration of UNCRPD and the ratification of that by the Aust Government, means that there is no longer any need to ‘merge’ organisations, (which is preferred by government) provided that they 100% represent their members. The Aus Gov must now accept and recognise DA’s right to represent the deaf community.

    6) Stop this squabbling and get united and working together. My suggestion is change the DF constitution and mission to SUPPORT other organisations, not advocate on their behalf.
    Doing this will show DF is capable of changing with the times, and is a mature organisation.

    7) In light of point 6, this means if there is any disagreement between DF and DA, the rights and desires of DA remain dominant. There are diplomatic ways of resolving conflicts and what DF is doing is not one of them. However, I feel DA and DF need to attend conflict mediation to resolve this.

    8) Can you please reveal how many deaf members replied to your questionnaire (when the results come in). If DF wants to represent us, the deaf community, then be accountable to us.

    Good luck! 🙂

  20. They are excellent questions. Bottom line is that as part of DF funding hey must submit a position paper on area that they are funded to represent. One of those areas is obviously Deaf people. DF in their wisdom decided to focus on Auslan as an Official language. Not to own the topic BUT to create debate and shhow that they supported the push for Auslan as an official language. As part of the funding agreement DF have to submit a position paper to get the next installment of their funding. This was due on the 31 March.

    Now the whole idea of this paper is not necessarily to represent but to support. This paper simply supports the push for Auslan as an official language. A smart operator would have said …. “LOOK it is not just DA that think its important DF do to.” and then used the paper to support what is a very important issue. It is really that simple. In doing that they would have shown great leadership and taken complete control of the issue. Unfortunately the opportunity has been missed.

    The paranoia that ensued is just mind blowing. I can only reiterate that DF are not pushing for a merger, have not pushed to take DA funding, will not and most importantly cannot. That push for a one stop shop comes purely from the Government.

    My own personal view is that DA need to survive. At the moment DF or any structure of current advocacy groups is not conductive to represent the Deaf community. As it stands the Deaf community would get swallowed up. That is why it is so essential that DA get its act together and operate smarter instead of on a platform of fear and aggression. They must get support and collaborate. Regardless of any worldwide view that’s the political landscape we are operating in. The have to be smarter and less reactive.

    As for the results of the survey, when they are collated I would be mighty pissed off if DF are not transparent and do not release them.

    As for your other sentiments that basically state the two organisations need to sort it out AMEN … As it stands DA simply won’t talk.

  21. Hi Gary,
    You might have missed it but there is another open letter to Deafness Forum on the DA website dated 29th March. It asks for a meeting between the two organisations to resolve this issue. DA have also asked for the government department responsible – the Department of Families, Housing, Community
    Services and Indigenous Affairs (FAHCSIA) to also go along so it can be resolved and a record kept of what was said between them all. Hopefully having a meeting like this is going to get all the issues on the table and resolved for once and for all.

  22. Two points:
    1 – This all reminds me of the DA vs ACARA saga. Concerned individuals approached DA (ADD as it was then) about imported sign language products and the need for a certification system. DA said not interested. Individuals tried to form a certification panel and system (ACARA) and where blasted by DA. ACARA published DA’s letters and their responses, but DA would not recognise their responses, only becoming more vigorous in their hostility. There was even a letter signed by several DA members/experts (most of who are hearing/oral). See
    2 – if DA is the provider to the QLD Education Dept’s Auslan in Schools Program, and the program is less than perfect, who will represent the Deaf against them? Conflict of interest or what?

  23. Gary,

    It seems you have missed the first two points I raised above.

    Why doesnt DF REFER to DA’s position on Auslan and back it? why did DF feel the need to create a new position, a new survey, a new policy?
    If you are genuine about collaboration, then to do that, you would refer to DA’s policy.

    You mention DA needs to survive, but you also miss the point that DF cannot continue in its current ways and needs to change to survive. DA is going to be stronger and stronger with the UNCRPD.

    DA published all open letters from DF, and have made the first move in mediation by inviting government as well. Is DF going to attend the mediation session?

    Anyway thats the last from me. I am annoyed with myself for getting carried away by the antics of childish organisational behaviors.

    • PW, I dont have access to the discussion paper right now. But I believe very early in the piece that DA were refferred to as was the work of people like Trevor Johnson. As for UNCRPD – well its open to intepretation and the Government is doing that at will. Signing it at this point in time appears to be more a PR stunt than a committment. I have noted that mediation has been initiated and I think that is a great move. I am glad that all DF open letters have been published too.

      So well done to DA for intiating that. Lets hope we can all get to the table with the spirit of collaboration at heart. You should not be annoyed your contribution has put forward a very good case for DAS and thats why we have this forum so thanks very much.

      I do note that people on here who have made contributions, many feel that they can not use their real names. This I understand in some ways. But this is what has been created. A community that fears speaking out lest they get victimised. On here are contributors and employees of numerous Deaf organisations including DA. We really need to start developing a culture of trust. the DA initiative for mediation is a good starting point.

  24. I refer to Fred’s number 2 commenting article.

    This is what I am talking about. It is all about the CONTROL and it is not a healthy organisation for the Deaf community. It begs the question… was DA consulting with its members in regards to the service providers? One important question was there any discussion in the DA’s past board meetings prior to the acquisition of service providers.

    It seems to me that everyone is puzzling the pieces together to find out why they are doing it?

    I know it may sounds strange, but?

  25. With reference to Timothy (Apr 1 and 29 Mar) and Fred (31 Mar)

    I agree, I am really concerned that with ownership of the Auslan shop, and taking on the service contact with Qld Edu that DA is really not able to independently advocate for the deaf community any more.

    Are they a voice for the deaf community, or a government backed service provider. Can they really do both?

    Like Fred said, who can we, the Deaf community turn to when it is a service provided by DA that we have a concern about. Certainly DA does not handle conflict and negotiation well, I think this incident with DF is evidence of that.

    Also I am concerned that DA seems to be narrowing the scope of who they even want to represent. Timothy talks about ‘being on the DA board’, but do I really want to be on the board of an organisation that is so purist? Are you deaf enough to be ‘Deaf Australia Deaf’.

    On UTube Kylie talks about his idea that his Deaf community ‘own the right’ to discuss Auslan. I think he thinks DA owns Auslan. I have news for him. No one owns a language, I have right to use it as much as the next deaf person, and as much as their child, sister, brother, friend and so on. In fact, as a signing person I wish everyone in my life knew how to sign. Who are DA to say who can and can not sign with me!

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