Please see below the Budget in Reply speech given last Friday morning by Gympie MP, David Gibson in the Queensland Parliament which addresses the issues raised by members of the Deaf community and CODA Australia in some part:
MEMBER FOR GYMPIE
2010 BUDGET IN REPLY
Mr GIBSON (Gympie—LNP) …It is now appropriate for me to turn my remarks
to the funding provided in the budget for Queensland children suffering from hearing
loss. As many in this chamber would be aware, as a child of deaf parents I am
intimately aware of the challenges deaf people face. Any funding that is provided for
early detection and intervention of hearing loss for infants and children is welcome as
it is an important step towards giving our kids the best start in life. As elected
representatives, however, we must remember that deafness is more than just a
medical condition that requires a techno-fix. It is recognised that cochlear implants are
an important advancement in assisting deaf people to be able to communicate in a
hearing dominated world, but we must also accept that individuals who are deaf do not
simply have damaged ears. Any government that does not accept this will be
implementing a flawed policy direction.
Deaf people belong to a community, a culture. In this sense deafness is unique
amongst disability types. A sense of culture is strongest amongst those for whom sign
language is their primary language, but it extends to all who use sign language
regardless of their level of proficiency. It is this linguistic bond perhaps more than any
other factor that binds the deaf community together. In many ways the social character
of the deaf culture can be compared to that of any immigrant culture. Just as there is a
strong sense of pride amongst the Sudanese or the Greek in their heritage and their
societies there is a strong sense of pride amongst the deaf and they enjoy the status
of a cultural and linguistic minority. Deafness is much more than just a physiological
disability; it is a way of life.
It was therefore extremely unfortunate that in accepting the Queenslander of
the Year award last week, Dimity Dornan from the Hear and Say Centre said—
I stand here to represent all the children who are deaf and all who haven’t been born yet who are deaf.
She further stated—
Deaf is not deaf anymore.
I would hope that these remarks were not scripted but rather spoken in the
exuberance of the moment and are now regretted, for they have caused concern
amongst the deaf community throughout Australia. The funding provided by this Labor
government for the Hear and Say Centre is significant, but we must recognise that the
auditory verbal approach is only suitable for some deaf children. This government
must show respect for the broader deaf community and recognise the worth and
benefits of sign language as a valid communication choice for parents of deaf children.
It is unfortunate that the media statements from the Bligh Labor government on this
budget announcement do not reflect that respect to the deaf community.
The inference in media statements that future funding would be cut by a Labor
government from Education Queensland programs for hearing impaired students as a
result of this budget funding announcement is of deep concern. Further, the media
statements imply that the only way deaf children are able to communicate is with a
cochlear implant. This is simply not true and does not recognise the value of sign
language known as Auslan. Auslan is an integral part of the richness of culture that is
valued in the deaf community. No government should support the view that the deaf
should be forced to assimilate into the dominant culture of spoken English. But from
the wording of the media statements it appears that this is Labor’s position.
We must recognise that a combination of communication strategies and options
need to be funded and offered to all deaf children and their parents if we are to be
serious about providing the strongest foundation for deaf children to have the best start in life.