Read My Shorts: New Short Film Festival

‘Read my Shorts’, is a new short film festival coming to Sydney in November 2010.

All films in the festival will be captioned, and an Auslan Interpreter will be present for the Q & A sessions.

A new short film festival in Surry Hills: Read-My Shorts

There will be:  Six Short Films per night, Guest Speakers, Q & As with the “auteurs”, Audience choice spot prize, a Critic’s Choice Award which goes into season filmmakers prize draw, and an Industry Panel chaired by legends Jolene Langland,  IRENE WALLS,  Martin Simpson and Tracy Savage.

Starts November 1, 2010, every Monday for 8 weeks

Time: 7 – 9.30pm

Where:  Royal Albert Hotel, 140 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills Sydney

For more information and to enter your film into the festival, contact Read My Shorts readmyshortsfilmfestival@gmail.com

Find us on Facebook, ReadMyShorts and ReadMyShorts

Where We At???

I have just returned from a magnificent holiday in Canada. It is a beautiful country with wonderfully friendly people. I was based in Calgary which is a very clean and compact city. It is nestled on the beautiful Bow River that flows from the Rockies. Highlight of my trip was a visit to Lake Louise to view snow capped mountains that flank the startling blue lake. We arrived when the mountains were shrouded by mists and then suddenly the mists cleared revealing such an awesome view that my wife was moved to tears.

The Awesome Lake Louise

Inevitably when one travels one compares the country they are visiting with the country that they live. Canada is the second largest country in the world. It is 9.9 million square kilometres in size. Australia is smaller but still vast being 7.6 million square kilometres in size. Population wise the countries are very similar. Canada has 33 million people while Australia has 22 million. The enormous size of the two countries  means there is oodles of space and much untapped nature with wide open spaces. Interestingly the Country Rating World Guide rates both Canada and Australia as equal third best places in the world. Australia is reckoned to have the best living conditions in the world whilst Canada has many benefits from having the USA as its neighbour.  In  particular this link with the USA provides enormous access benefits for deaf people.  ( http://www.freeworldacademy.com/globalleader/rating.htm)

The vastness of Canada and Australia means there is oodles of natural scenery. This is Horse Shoe Canyon - the Badlands

Recently, in Australia, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has begun to flex its muscle.  Rebuttal readers will know that the AHRC threw out an application for exemption to disability discrimination complaints from the major cinemas in Australia. Less well  known is that they also threw out an application for exemption to disability complaints by Pay TV providers in Australian in relation to the provision of captioning. The AHRC stated that the application from Pay TV providers was against the spirit of the Disability Discrimination ACT (DDA). And thank god for that!

The first thing that hits you when you arrive in Canada is that captioning is everywhere. Televisions in shopping malls have their captions switched on. In airports it is a similar story. You switch on the TV and cable TV .. all 240 channels provided by SHAW (A Canadian Telco) are captioned 24 hours a day. The soccer, shown live from England, was captioned as well. My jaw just literally dropped.

In Australia I have pay TV.  The lack of captioning on it means that for deaf and hard of hearing it is not great value. It is frustrating because there are shows that are captioned one day and then not the next. It STINKS. While free to air television is improving in its provision of captioning there are still too many shows that are not captioned.

I will grant you that Canada benefits from having such a close proximity to the US of A. BUT this is still no excuse for the shoddy treatment that deaf people get in terms of captioning in Australia. In terms of population and the vastness of area Canada and Australia are very similar countries. BUT technically Australia is richer. In 2009 the average income in Australia was $40 000 ranking it 19th in the world. In Canada average income is $38 200 ranking it 27th in the world. YET Canada is providing 24 hour, round the clock, television captioning! What excuse does Australia have???Absolutely NONE. One can only assume that Australian Television providers are simply mean spirited and the Australian Government lacking in  the fortitude to compel these companies to provide access that Deaf and hard of hearing people should have BY RIGHT!

The other glaring difference you will note upon arriving in Canada is the quality and speed of its Internet services. The friends I was staying with had a bundle that included cable TV, Internet, Phone (Video Phone) all in one for just under $100 a month. The video phone was attached to their television. They simply switched it on and dialled the video relay service when they needed to make a call or dialled direct to a deaf friend. Currently the Canadian video relay service is in operation from 9am to 11pm. In a few weeks it will be 24 hours a day.

What do we have in Australia? Pay TV where captioning access is a lottery. A video relay service that is from 9 am to 5pm and where sometimes there is no interpreter because none are available. A relay service we must access through Skype that sometimes drops out and varies in quality. The National Broadband Network cannot come fast enough. Australia is a rich country RICHER than Canada and it simply no longer has any reason to  not provide. I don’t care if Canada is benefiting from its close link to the USA – AUSTRALIA CAN afford it – There are no longer any excuses!

We stayed in Calgary which is a small city, about the size of Adelaide, with a population of around 1.2 million people.  It has appalling public transport  but is beautifully planned and very, very clean. In Calgary they have a small and independent Deaf community. We were fortunate to attend the Calgary Association for the Deaf’s 75th anniversary.  The Calgary Association of the Deaf maybe small but it is also exceedingly well run and entirely run by Deaf people at that. It has $ half a million in the bank and is looking to buy its own premises. It gets some Government support but only through grants that it applies for. It is run entirely by volunteers. It is a model that the Australian Deaf community should aspire to.

In  Australia Deaf community groups struggle to survive. They are dependent on support from benevolent and often patronising peak bodies like Deaf Societies.  Deaf community groups have to scrimp and save simply to make ends meet. As president of Deaf Sports Recreation Victoria I can say this with some authority. If tomorrow Vicdeaf told DSRV they needed to find a new office or withdrew the paltry funding that it provides to support DSRV, or if the Victorian Government withdrew the minimal annual grant it provides – DSRV would fold and die. Yet in Calgary, population 1.2 million, (Melbourne 6 million) there is a completely independent and relatively wealthy Deaf run Deaf organisation that could survive without any additional funding whatsoever. Where are we going wrong??

Interestingly, despite the obvious advantages that deaf Canadians have over their Australian deaf peers, they still have the political bun-fights that exist in Australia.   There is still that age old political argument of oral vs signing. There is still controversy about when and if kids should have cochlear implants and if they should be ablen to sign or not. I guess somethings will be forever universal.

We in Australia enjoy a wonderful lifestyle. We enjoy relative wealth, pristine beaches, wonderful weather, wonderful health and state of the art technology. We receive a high standard of education and have enormous opportunities for leisure. But most of all Australia is WEALTHY! I maybe naive but to my way of thinking Canada has all the logistical diffculties of distance and isolation that Australia must confront yet it PROVIDES a level of access that deaf Australians can only dream of.  Sure it is helped by it’s close geographical links to the USA but Australia CAN and SHOULD be doing better! Enough of the excuses – it can be done – Just get on with it!

Taking Advantage

I am Deaf .. I have no qualms in using it to my advantage sometimes. I figure I am so often disadvantaged that it kinda evens the scales a little bit when I can use it to my advantage. Some people think this is unethical. Some think it’s hilarious while others think it is just plain sneaky. Me? I attribute it to my lack of patience.

This all came about because the other day I was at the Motor Registrations Department. The Moto Rego have an electronic ticketing system. You take a ticket with a number on it and when it’s your turn your number flashes above the counter where you will be served. The other morning the ticketing system was not working. They were handing out tickets and verbally calling the numbers.

I pointed out to the guy that gave me a ticket that I would not hear my number and asked if he could give me a wave. He promptly pushed me to front of a very long line and got me served straight away. Why not? Saved me lots of time. But some people wanted to LECTURE me and tell me this wasn’t right. It feeds the POOR DEAFIE syndrome they say. Maybe it does but PFFFT say I – it saved me hours and I had a garden to do.

Now as a youngster I was often in night clubs. I partied hard. I often would argue at the counter that being deaf and unable to hear the music meant that I shouldn’t have to pay. Often I would get in free or at a reduced rate. Unethical? Perhaps, but it is true I don’t get the same enjoyment as the hearing patrons so why should I pay the same price?? I think this example is DEFINATELY abusing the system but as a youngster it seemed a good idea at the time. What was more unethical was that I would sometimes get hearing friends in free too by pretending that they were deaf. WHAT IS MORE UNETHICAL is that the same hearing friends would often pretend that they were deaf and GET THEMSELVES IN FREE even when I wasn’t there! You know who you are!

Then of course there is Buyers Edge. They insist on ringing you on the voice line even though on your file it says DEAF do not RING. You try to get them to email and they refuse saying their system wont let them. When you call to change your address they wont let you do it through the phone over the relay service. Consequently their bills go to the wrong address and don’t get paid. Of course that’s my fault isn’t it?

Anyway they got fed up with dealing with me they sold my debt to a debt collector. The debt collector, of course, rings me on the phone even though the file says DEAF DO NOT RING. Anyway eventually I got the debt collector on the phone through the relay service. They wanted the debt paid in FULL and NOW. About here is where I play the deaf card. “But”, I said, “I tried to resolve this matter several times but Buyers Edge had deaf unfriendly policies and wouldn’t allow me to change my address through the relay service.” I pointed out that if they had their bills would be paid no problem but they insisted on sending the bill to the wrong address and then PHONING me when the said bill did not get paid. “Unfair and discriminatory”, I said, “And now I have a credit record.”

To cut a long story short the debt collector allowed me to pay off the debt in monthly installments and made sure that no adverse record went on my credit rating. Sometimes playing that deaf card is necessary and I have no qualms in doing so. Lecture me if you must but until society changes and meets the needs of all its citizens I will use the deaf card when and if it’s needed. Tomorrow the airport to Canada 😀 … At 4am I ain’t lining up I can tell you!

Conflicts of Interest

In 1999 I applied for a job in Adelaide. The job was to establish a new program for young deaf people focusing on developing positive mental health. The man who was groomsman at my wedding was the boss of the organisation offering the job.  One might have thought that I would be a shoe-in for the role. Unfortunately not.  My friend recognised, very early, that to be part of the interview process would be an enormous conflict of interest on his part. He stepped out of the process and appointed an interview panel of neutral people even though he had a keen interest and passion for the position on offer. Such integrity is very rare. In a world where people seek control and power my friend wanted to make sure the process was as fair as possible and that no-one could claim that it was one of those JOBS FOR THE BOYS. Subsequently I won the job and had the misfortune of having to share  an office with my friend for over a year. He is not a morning person, he makes my wife seem like a Teletubby in comparison.

In 1998 I applied for another job as Services Manager. The make up of the panel was a stark contrast. The panel consisted of two people that lived together, the CEO and the chair of the organisation. The person that interpreted the interview was the girlfriend of the CEO and the chair was the sister of the interpreter. Very much a family affair. I had been part of the board of this organisation for a number of years. I had come into conflict with three of the people on the panel when part of a selection panel for the new CEO in 1995. It was acrimonious. What had occurred is that a woman had come out on top of the process – three votes to two. Two of the panel members refused to recognise the decision. To cut a long story short somehow the panel managed to select the person for the job that had originally finished last in the selection process. A classic example of cutting off your nose to spite your face. In my interview for the Services Manager position at least three of the panel of four had a clear conflict of interest but chose to remain part of the interview process. Not surprisingly I didn’t win the job and it is alleged, though I have never been able to prove it, that the eventual winner of the position was a close friend of the Chair.  Perhaps the eventual winner won the position on merit BUT the conflicts of interest of the panel members that needed to be addressed were not. It cast  unnecessary doubt on the integrity of the whole process.

In more recent times we have seen that people who are employees of service organisations for the deaf that are also part of peak bodies that potentially could be required to handle complaints or campaigns directed at the organisations that employ them. Indeed we have seen the situation where a person employed by one organisation competed against another organisation that the same person was part of the Board for a services contract. Now I am not suggesting that anything underhand happened but again this is a clear conflict of interest. Potentially the person could have inside information that could benefit one organisation over the other. It is not likely to happen but because the conflict of interest exists it raises questions over the integrity of the process.

Now clearly the  deaf sector is very small. It has a pool of talented people and most of them know each other. Some have come into conflict and some have skills that they want to spread as far as possible to benefit deaf people.  Very often there are glaring conflicts of interest. I firmly believe that one should not be involved in an interview process where past conflicts or relationships are likely to lead to a person prejudging an applicant. Because the deafness sector is so small and everyone knows everyone this very often happens. There are also potential conflicts of interest for individuals who have a business stake in the deaf sector.  Can you imagine, for example, if the CEO of the Commonwealth Bank had millions of undeclared dollars invested in the National Australia Bank? In politics imagine if the Government was about to select the organisation to roll out the National Broadband Network and the minister responsible had a share portfolio with Telstra. Such scenarios would and have caused scandals. There is a reason why conflicts of interest must be declared.  Sure the deaf sector is not quite dealing with issues of the scale in these examples but when glaring business conflicts of interest exist they need to be addressed or it casts a shadow over the integrity of the sector and sadly the usually well meaning individuals as well.

Currently I also have a conflict of interest. I write for The Rebuttal and am part of the Board of Deafness Forum Australia. In The Rebuttal I raise issues that are sometimes not the position of Deafness Forum Australia, in fact they sometimes are in direct conflict with the position of Deafness Forum. I am sometimes critical of Deaf Australia and by being critical I directly contribute to the conflict that exists between Deafness Forum and Deaf Australia. Although I get no financial gain from The Rebuttal I realise that the views I express are really a conflict of interest in regard to my position on the Board of Deafness Forum. While I believe strongly in the values of Deafness Forum it may well be the organisation is better served and has more integrity if I am not involved. It is a dilemma that I am currently mulling over very seriously.

Conflicts of interest in the deafness sector are the elephants in the room. Some exist at political and business level. There are people involved who could be accused of flogging their own agenda to death for financial and political gain but no-one will speak out about it.  There are whispers in the background but no-one will come forward and openly discuss it.  Perhaps it is time, for the benefit of the whole sector and for the development of integrity and trust, that the elephant is acknowledged and tamed.

Take My Word For it

One of my pet hates in life is to have to constantly prove that I am deaf. You know society mistrusts everyone so much that you must show that you are the real deal. Often it is necessary because people do take advantage.  For example they will try to de-fraud Centrelink of Disability Pension money by pretending that they have a disability of some sort.  Sometimes proving one has a disability is just logical. Often it is not. In fact  it is often just a down right abuse of human dignity.

For example, a deaf person going to University might meet one of the University disability support staff to try and work out the most appropriate type of support that they can get. Perhaps it is captioning or perhaps an interpreter is required. Some may just simply require a hearing loop so that they can utilise their hearing they have more effectively. The deaf person will rock up for the initial interview. They will show their hearing aids, they might even have an interpreter for the initial interview. It will be obvious that they are deaf. They may have a deaf voice, they may sign to communicate or simply they will have a cochlear implant for all to see.

So they will have their initial interview and they will work out the support that they require to study. It may be technology or it might be a sign language interpreter.  The assessment interview might take an hour. The disability support person will know clearly that the person is deaf simply because deaf person spent the last hour signing their answers to them. Yet despite this they will insist that before any support is given that the deaf person must provide an audiogram or a letter from their Doctor verifying that they are deaf. I mean hearing people just decide for the fun of it that they will pretend they are deaf, book interpreters and have their lectures interpreted  for them … you know simply because its fun. Lots of people are weird like that – go figure. Sometimes a little common sense is required.

So it was with great dismay that I found out today that to participate in national or state deaf sporting events in the future that I will have to provide an audiogram. I mean I have only been involved in the Deaf community for 28 years. I entered it when I was 18 and have partaken in three Australian Deaf Games, numerous national and state deaf golf championships, a few Southern Cross Soccer Championships and even a Deaf Mixed Netball Championships. I thought that everyone knew that I was deaf.  Apparently not.  You see – all these years they have actually suspected that I might be hearing and because of this I now must submit an audiogram before I partake in any official Deaf sporting events ever again. I must do this to prove to them what I and they already know – that I am deaf.

Of course I do not have an audiogram. I have not seen an audiologist since I left school. So I must pay some money to a doctor or an audiologist to show that I am deaf.  Bugger the fact that I must pay registration fees, travel and accommodation costs to participate in deaf sporting events, I now must pay an additional sixty bucks or so to verify I am deaf. I thought they already knew. How could I have been so stupid. I am a hearing person in disguise and I did not even KNOW!

You know  deaf sport is really corrupt. We find the best hearing people we can, just to win, and make them pretend that they are deaf. Yeah, and then these people go on to represent Australia pretending that they are deaf. Real deaf people miss out because hearing people are just wanting to replace deaf people in everything! Winning is so important that deaf sports teams are gonna stack their teams with elite hearing athletes. There is no financial gain involved. These hearing people actually have to pay for the privilege of pretending to be deaf and partaking in deaf sport. They are queuing up to abuse the system – they are everywhere! Yep, they will pay thousands for the honour. ” Hey I am hearing, I am so good I represented the Deaf Tiddley Winks Team in Nepal, and paid $10 000 for the privilege — HE HE HE HE —- Ain’t I sneaky???”

Ok I am getting a little cynical but the Deaf community was the last bastion in the world where I could just be deaf and not have to prove it. I didn’t have to see a doctor for a report that said my mid range frequencies were at the mega hertz levels while my lower range ones were in the mini hertz levels. The Deaf community was somewhere where my deafness was just accepted as a normal state of being. Medical models, doctors and audiologist did not exist. Sadly, not anymore!

Now I have heard all the arguments about why we must now prove that we are deaf. The international deaf sporting bodies demand it. It ensures deaf sport remains deaf sport and it allows data to be gathered that can be used to apply for additional funding,  I am sorry but I don’t buy any of these arguments. If you get picked at international level then why not get an audiogram then. Surely deaf sport at national and state level has more value than simply winning!  Data is available everywhere. If you want to know how many deaf people were fitted with hearing aids  just ask Australian Hearing to provide you with longitudinal data . Hell, if you look hard enough you might even find the information on the Web. Contact the Eye and Ear hospital for information about how many kids have been implanted in the last 20 years and at what age. Its not difficult to develop a statistical argument for deaf participation in sport using this sort of data.

The people that are insisting on this new strict audiogram policy for participation at Deaf national and state sporting events are actually very good friends of mine. I know they have made the decision to demand audiograms with the best of intentions. Unfortunately this time I think they have got it very wrong.  Deaf sport at a national or state level, to me anyway, is about fun, socialising and memories. Winning is way down the pecking order. I find this new policy lacking in common sense. I find it autocratic and overly officious. Hell, they are threatening disciplinary action if audiograms are not provided. The Deaf community, particularly its sporting events, was the last bastion where I could be a person without the medical crap following me – sadly this is now no longer the case.

Julie Phillips Response to Little Deaf Girl

The most recent article about deaf kids in schools re-awakened the frustration that I’m sure many of us share when thinking about deaf education.  It was very interesting  to read about the difference between “coping “and doing  the best that you can. Without getting too technical, this was the subject of an appeal in a deaf education case Hurst v Education Queensland.   We initially lost this case  in the Federal Court, because the judge found  that the deaf girl, Tiahna,  was discriminated against  because she was not provided with Auslan,  but she could “comply” which is a legal  word.   He also used the word “cope”.   We appealed this case to the Full Federal Court who found that the judge had made a mistake. To “cope” is not good enough, they found.  Thank heavens.
Imagine a man with cerebral palsy  who uses crutches to walk, and to get into a building must have a ramp.  If there were only steps, I guess what he could do is throw himself on the ground, drag himself up the steps, get up again at the top and enter.  So maybe he could “cope”, but does he have the same access as an able-bodied person who can simply walk up the steps? No.

Deaf education continues to be a shambles.   Each school can decide what sign language should be used (as if there was anything other than Auslan).   The Department of Education  has no policy about this. A client of mine recently wanting to move to Victoria from another state rang a number of schools with deaf units.   She was told by most of them that her daughter would not get a full-time interpreter, because there was not enough money.  Many “interpreters” in schools  are not qualified. Teachers of the Deaf do not have to be fluent in Auslan.
The million-dollar question – what is the deaf community doing about these things???
Julie Phillips
Anti-Discrimination Advocate

The Independent Factor

The elections are not yet over. We were all hoping that Australia would have a new Prime Minister today. But Australia could not decide. It was not a case of having two high quality candidates it was a case of vote bad or vote worse. Clearly Australia couldn’t decide who was worse so as I type the two major parties are up the proverbial creek without a paddle. Why? because who ever gets in will be at the mercy of the independents. Australia’s political system is, today, at the mercy of five individuals who are not aligned with either the Labor Party or the Liberal Party. These five will basically decide the future of Australia’s Government. So much for democracy.

But is this a bad thing? Bob Katter is one of these independents. He used to be a member of the Coalition between the Liberals and the National Party. He was a minister in the Queensland State Government in 1989. He joined Federal Parliament in 1993. He is seen as a bit of a red-kneck and a lose cannon so to speak. But he is also a strong believer in representing the people that elected him. Being from a regional area he felt the old Howard Government were pushing policies that were destroying the bush, so he quit and became his own man. He has virtually won every election since in a landslide. Whatever the rest of Australia believe, his electorate believe in him and he has been prepared to stand by his principles rather than sell out the people that voted him in. He now finds himself as one of the select the King/Queen makers. How ironic is that?

In an age where people are expected to toe the line and to spout the party line, whether they believe it or not, perhaps what we need now is for the major parties to be held accountable. Do you want Tony Abbott as your leader? A man whon stabbed Malcolm Turnbull in the back to become leader? Malcolm Turnbull is no saint either, having stabbed Brendan Nelson in the back. Julia Gillard did likewise to become leader. She led us all to believe she was the loyal deputy while people like Bill Shorten did the dirty work behind the scenes to get her into the hot-seat.  Squeaky clean she was not. There are whispers that Shorten was even prepared to elect Gillard as leader knowing that she would face an up hill battle to be re-elected and thus paving the way for himself to become leader.  Did Tony and Julia become the leaders simply because they wanted to serve Australia? Don’t be daft, they were power hungry and sold their souls for the top job. Australian’s saw through both Tony and Julia but unfortunately could not decide which was worse.  So now the likes of Bob Katter and Tony Windsor will decide for them. (Just for the record, although Bob Katter is an ex National/Liberall he supports Labor’s National Broadband roll out for the benefits it will provide the bush. In fact all the independents who were ex Coalition members do, so previous party alliance will come to nothing. –  http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/coalition-refuses-to-budge-on-broadband-20100823-13ejm.html)

Recently I was criticised in a meeting because I was prepared to speak out about decisions that were being made by a committee I am part of. Readers may recall that I was very against accepting the original deal that was struck between the Big Four Cinemas and our advocacy organisations in regard to cinema captioning. It was a deal that most Deaf and hearing impaired people, throughout Australia, seemed to be very much against. Over 450 people put in public submissions on the Australian Human Rights Commission’s website asking that the deal be rejected. But still our advocacy organisations refused to change their approach.  To me this is wrong. I was told by one group that speaking out as I did was wrong.  “Only two of us in our organisation can publicly comment on issues”  said one person, “What you do as a member of your organisation is your business” It was a none to subtle way of telling me I should SHUT UP.  Another said that if I must speak out to use a pseudonym. That way what I say cannot come back to the organisation. My view was quite simply that I am on the organisation to represent the views of deaf  people and when those people I represent overwhelmingly make a statement it is that view I must represent. Soladarity is one thing but autocratic control by a minority such as a committee is another.

And this is what independents can bring to the table in Government. Because they are not part of the party machine they can dissent and publicly too. In short they can hold whoever gets into power accountable. The problem is that they can also abuse that position. They can hold Australia to ransom for something that they believe is essential and stop important decisions going through. Imagine, for example, if Pauline Hanson won a seat as an independent and controlled the balance of power. Technically she could demand a halt to all Asian immigration in return for allowing the Broadband Bill through Parliament. I have enough faith in people to think that they would tell Pauline to go jump BUT it can mean important decisions that need to be passed will be unnecessarily held up.

So, it is down to the independents. Is this a good thing? Who knows. But for now lets hope that the major parties get the message that the electorate have sent – Not that they believe that Liberal and Labor are equally good, but rather that they could not decide who was the worse deal. Hopefully this will, on its own, make the major parties clean up their act. And pigs might fly but there is no harm in dreaming.