Framing Gravity Opening Night: You Are Invited

To Show you that The Rebuttal is not just all doom and gloom, but that we recognise there are good things in the world, we are posting the following invitation, for those of you who are in Sydney or will be visiting Sydney in October, 2011.

Framing Gravity - Recent works by contemporary Australian artists with disability
You are invited to attend the Framing Gravity Opening Night
Thursday 20 October, 6:00pm – 8:00pm
To be opened by Glenn Barkley, Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art followed by a performance by Georgia Cranko.

Scott Trevelyan, Bee'n a Tough Day Honey!, 2010
Been a Tough Day Honey! 2010 by Scott Trevelyan,
Auslan interpreted
RSVP for the Openng Night of Framing Gravity
Exhibition dates 21 October – 5 November 2011

Sydney College of the Arts, SCA Gallery, the University of Sydney

Balmain Rd, Rozelle NSW (enter opposite Cecily Street)

Gallery hours
Mon – Fri 11:00am – 5:00pm Sat 11:00am – 4:00pm
ACCESS INFORMATION
Venue is wheelchair accessible with accessible toilets on campus. Limited accessible parking available. Bookings essential.
Further information: AART.BOXX 11: Framing Gravity. Contact: Josie Cavallaro 02 9251 6499 ext 105, jcavallaro@aarts.net.au
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Maturing, Why it is Hard for Deaf kids.

feelI have three kids. The joy of kids is watching them mature and develop. My three are all robust lads. All different, very intelligent and passionate about most things that they do. They love sport and are competitive to the extreme. They went through all the milestones learning to talk and walk, the terrible two’s,  starting school, l learning to read, making friends learning to share and the like. On top of this they have deaf parents. They moved from the deaf world to the hearing world at will. They have met people from allover the world. They accept disability as just a way of life. They treat no-one differently. You know how kids are cruel? Well recently a friend from soccer, who is grossly obese and who is probably the butt of jokes at school, returned to Ballarat for a visit. The middle son found out on FB and told him to come along to watch their next match and catch up. He did so and one by one my three went up to their friend and greeted him warmly. Difference is nothing to them. They are mature beyond their years.  That is not to say they are not kids, they are and they have their MOMENTS,  but their exposure to the world has meant that they have grown up very quickly and my wife and I are extremely proud of  them.

The point of the story, apart from demonstrating my pride in the lads, is that they have matured because they are exposed.  I like to think we guide them. We don’t mollycoddle or protect them overly so. We answer their questions openly and honestly without,  I hope, speaking down to them. We encourage independence through getting them to catch public transport or simply cooking their own Pizzas on Friday nights. We set them challenges, hell my youngest, at the tender age of 10, had read all the Harry Potter books. It is this exposure to life coupled with strong and flexible guidance that has, I believe, led to their maturity.   But what of deaf kids?

Lets consider this passage that I have pinched from a website that discusses how we can help kids to mature:

Taken from: http://www.kidsource.com/kidsource/content/behavior.html

“As part of being responsible, children need to respect and show concern for the well-being of other people. Respect ranges from using basic manners to having compassion for the suffering of others. Compassion is developed by trying to see things from the point of view of others, and learning that their feelings resemble our own.

Daddy, why was Grandma crying?

She is very sad. One of her closest friends just died. Come and sit with me. Do you remember how you felt when your gerbil, Whiskers, died?

I felt sad and lonely.

I’m sure Grandma feels that way, too. Maybe you can think of a way to help her.

I could give her a hug…

That’s a great idea! I’m really glad you thought of it.

Respect for others also includes the habit of treating people fairly as individuals, regardless of race, sex, or ethnic group. As we mature, respect includes realizing that not all our obligations to others, such as caring for a family member who is sick, are chosen freely. And it includes tolerance for people who do not share our beliefs or likes or dislikes, as long as they do not harm others.

These habits are especially important because many of the wrongs people commit result from indifference to the suffering they cause.”

OK, this seems simple enough doesn’t it? Kid at dinner table asks question to dad. Dad answers and they discuss the issue. Dad imparts his wisdom to the child and child learns some nice and mature behaviours that will assist them to mature into well rounded adults. Simple isn’t it?

But no it is not. It is far more complicated. Perhaps the above conversation occurred at the dinner table where all the family were having dinner. Perhaps mum was there. Mum listens in and contributes her wisdom too. Little brother Paul pipes in with a question,  “Where do people go when they die?”  The subject changes to death and different views as to what happens when people die. They go to heaven or hell.  They have a funeral and are buried. “What’s a funeral?” Perhaps cremation comes up in the conversation and this is discussed too.  Perhaps spirituality comes into the discussion too.  Or cultures and how they respond to death. From this simple conversation about grandma being sad a host of topics and issues can be discussed.  The result? Growth in knowledge,  in the long term maturity and the ability to deal with and understand  a myriad of situations. And all of this comes from OVERHEARING.

But how do deaf kids overhear? Now the oralist will tell you that to help them overhear we must enhance their listening skills. Now we deafies know, particularly the more deaf we are, that aids and cochlear implants and the like will only take us so far. We know that in groups when all are talking that we miss heaps of information. We know that when their is a lot of background noise we often struggle. So simple dinner time conversations are not something that are made accessible by amplified sound.  There will be limits to how much information that deafies will receive in any given situation. The example given in the previous paragraph clearly shows that access to a simple dinner conversation can expand knowledge and, ultimately, maturity. How much of these conversations do deaf kids access?

Let’s revisit the above conversation. The family is in a lull.  The conversation on death has ended. On the television in the background Tony Abbott is being interviewed. Tony, being Tony, is telling the world that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. That central to the family is having a solid mother figure who carries out the traditional female role. It is Tony’s view that the onslaught of women into the workplace has led to the breakdown of family values. Of course Prime Minister Julia Gillard has to rebut this. Julia puts forward an alternate view. That women have a right to work without being made feel guilty. Julia argues that women working has brought greater income and opportunities to families. Julia argues that through work the talents and skills of women can be utilised for the greater benefit of the nation. On hearing this teenage sister,  Kirsten,  vents about what a sexist pig Tony is,  “What’s sexist” asks Paul?  And the family are off again in a spirited debate. Politics, values, work, tradition,  gender roles and the fact that Tony should never become PM are important topics that are discussed. For little Paul it’s a first.  For Kirsten she is learning to debate and respect differing points of view. Everyone learns and grows. Maturity is knocked up another notch. And all this from overhearing. But what if Paul was deaf?

And just how much overhearing happens everyday? In the play ground kids are discussing what they did last night. Paul is telling people that his Grandma’s friend died and she has gone to heaven. Katie says,  “My dad says there is no heaven, we are all dust.”  Peter says,  “Your dads going to hell, he doesn’t believe in god.”  Katie slaps Peter for saying nasty things about her dad.  Peter holds his face and bawls. Miss Coggins comes over and asks what happened. All the kids talk at once.  Miss Coggins takes hold of the situation and explains that violence is no way to settle a debate.  She touches on issues of respect and understanding different values. All the kids are listening in and learning. Perhaps Miss Coggins sees an opportunity to expand on the issues by discussing religion in the classroom. Paul goes home and at dinner says “Today Katie hit Peter cos she said his dad is going to hell and Miss Coggins said ……” And the family are off again chatting sharing, learning and maturing.  You can bet Katie and Peter are doing the same at home with their families. But what if one of them …Katie, Peter or Paul was deaf? Just how much would they be learning?

It is maturity that allows us to deal with life. When we become an adult and have to develop relationships with others maturity plays a part. Maturity gives us strategies to deal with different situations. Maturity allows us to respect others and discuss different points of view without resorting to violence. Maturity lets us deal with death, with tragedies and with crisis. Maturity is learnt behaviour that occurs from natural interaction with others and the environment, including the media. Maturity requires ACCESS to information through simple everyday tasks like dinner time conversations and classroom discussions. If the individual is deaf, just how much of this information do they miss?

Well the answer to this is A LOT. The consequence of this is that we have perfectly intelligent young deaf individuals, by virtue of lack of access to information through overhearing, who reach adulthood and are expected to deal with adult issues but in reality are still children. In reality the deaf 16 year old is often still 12.  They may act, look and seemingly be well adapted individuals but if one looks deeper they will discover that they are lacking in the knowledge, skills and strategies to deal with adult situations.  Of course this varies from individual to individual but the inability to overhear can and does mean many young deaf adults do not get enough information leaving them unprepared for the challenges of adult life. The result? STRESS and a higher incidence of mental health issues.

This is the a large part of the reason why research shows that young deaf people have much higher incidence of mental health issues than the general population.

Deaf children and adolescents exhibit higher levels of behavioral and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders then the general population (Haskins 2000 & Chritchfield, 2002)  –

Parents in the present study, however, reported significantly more concerns on the social problem and thought problem scales than did Australian parents of hearing children and adolescents (The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry [2010, 44(4):351-7) –

Communication problems, family stresses, and societal prejudice that accompany it [hearing impairment] could lead to problems ranging from suicidal depression to substance abuse and violent behavior” (Steinberg, July 1998) –

Research indicates that deaf children and adolescents are experiencing significant mental health issues such as low self-esteem, poor self concept, isolation, loneliness, anxiety and depression.  (Focus on Mental Health, 2010)

The list of research goes on. The findings are clear, BUT WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT IT?

The problems are nothing to do with how much people hear or do not hear. The problem is simply  providing deaf kids with access to information and interaction.(although the answer is not simple)  Hearing technology helps but does not fill all the gaps. Learning sign language helps but similarly doesn’t provide access when the bulk of people around you cannot sign.  What deaf kids need is strategies to access information and learn from others and their environment.

How much access do deaf kids have to classroom and social interaction? How much support is given to families to make them aware of the dynamics of learning  in the family and how it contributes to the child’s maturity?  What programs do we have that focus on FILLING IN THE GAPS with knowledge that deaf kids clearly miss in their day to day interactions? In short these kids need KNOWLEDGE and INFORMATION far greater than they currently receive and this gap needs to be filled.

Clearly we are not doing this. We TALK, we RESEARCH but we do not do. The consequence of the lack of maturity in deaf kids can be dire. SUICIDE! It happens! DEPRESSION! It happens! LOW SELF ESTEEM! It happens. POOR ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT, It happens.  Its time to stop talking about it and create programs to PREVENT and not DEAL with the problem after it has happened.  A website wont do it,  a conference wont do it, constantly talking abouit it wont do it.  Hell even this article wont do it!  What we need is action and one of the major strategies  is to find ways to fill in the gaps that deaf kids miss through their everyday interactions.  Help them mature through knowledge and from interaction – It’s not easy but it’s not rocket science either.

 


 

An Interesting Resistance

I love technology. I love the people that invent it. I love how I can use it and it has opened up the world to me. Captions give me access to the television  and now even the theatre if I so desire. An assortment of mobile phones have given me access to the phone network at any time by text and email.  I can even talk on the phone if  I want and have whatever the person on the other end is saying captioned. The Internet has given me access to free video conferencing. I can now beam up sign language interpreters to my laptop almost anywhere in Australia saving me thousands of dollars and making my life so much easier. if I so wish I could probably make arrangements to have an interpreter beamed to an Iphone using Facetime. I just need to get an Iphone or even an Ipad.  For the hard of hearing digital hearing aids, powerful in the ear canal aids, cochlear implants and even blue tooth have opened up the world to them.  In short because of technology the barriers that we all faced in years gone by have been rapidly knocked down.

Yet despite all he benefits there is still an interesting resistance to technology. The Deaf community for years have been resistant to Cochlear Implants and often justifiably so. The Cochlear Implant is wonderful technology but it is so often spouted as THE ANSWER and the MIRACLE cure that it isn’t. It has great benefits and many limitations and Deaf people have been oppressed with HEARING values for so long to great disadvantage that they have rightly been resistant. Thankfully the Deaf community is now more accepting of Cochlear Implants, indeed many young people who have implants have become active members of the Deaf community. BUT misinformation about the Cochlear Implant continues and the Deaf community remain wary, and so they should.

Hearing technology aside I have noticed an interesting resistance to new video technology in the Deaf community. Many have embraced it but many are concerned of its rapid introduction. I write this only as a personal observation as I have noticed that in the teaching of sign language and in the sign language interpreting fraternity that there is a great deal of caution about the introduction of video technology. A lot of  it is justified so I write this in an effort to make sense of the resistance.

Recently a friend put up a Facebook stream asking peoples views on the teaching of Auslan online using video technology and online technology.  He basically wanted to know what people felt were the benefits and disadvantages. I confess I believe that video technology CAN and should be used to teach sign language. There were many comments on my friends stream that also put forward the positives of teaching sign language online but there was some very strong resistance towards  it.

Many on the stream felt that sign language SHOULD only be taught face to face and in a classroom setting. They felt that interaction was important. That only by regular face to face interaction could sign language be taught properly. Online teaching, it was argued, did not allow this. The argument was that online teaching of sign language was too passive and did not allow for the essential interaction that was necessary to develop proficiency in the language.  The other argument was that teaching online through video was essentially two dimensional and that it did not allow the learner to see the full shape of signs nor fully understand the use of space and subtle expressions that were an integral component of the grammar of sign language.

I personally felt that these arguments tended to be a little negative.  In this I mean people were looking at it in negative and overly resistant way rather than looking at possible solutions. I am a strong  advocate of online teaching of sign language.  Living in a rural area I am fully aware of just how difficult it is to access support in the learning of  sign language.  Smaller populations, lack of qualified teachers and distance are all enormous barriers. What this means is that a parent of a newly born child diagnosed with deafness has virtually no access to good quality teaching of sign language that could greatly benefit their child.  I also feel that by providing access online you can create a spark in someone that can lead to them becoming interpreters or taking their learning even further. Then, of course, it also creates awareness and interest among people that might not ever have considered learning sign language.  More compellingly, we live in a time hungry society and online learning offers participants an alternative to learn in their own time frames and at their own pace.

I believe we need to be innovative. Online learning of sign language does not need to be passive. It can be interactive.   For example a special Facebook page can be set up for participants of a course. They can make videos and post them to Facebook and other participants would then watch and try to make sense of what people were saying. The instructor could also gauge what learners were learning and offer feed back by posting this on the page for all to see. Why not use Skype or Ovoo where participants can connect with each other, including with the instructor, to practice conversations and seek clarification.   With innovation there is absolutely no reason why online learning need be restrictive. I have found most ADSL connections to be suitable.  One barrier is the technology of the participants.  For good video and Skype connections the technology needs to be top of the range, this is something not all participants will have.  With the introduction of the National Broadband Network online options will only become more desirable.  Perhaps now is the time to develop protocols and teaching methods so that the NBN can be utilised to the maximum.

Interestingly there has also been resistance to the provision of sign language interpreting online by some elements of the interpreting fraternity.  As an avid user of  Skype to beam sign language interpreters to  many remote areas of Victoria, thus saving my employer thousands of dollars, I am surprisingly more understanding of this resistance.  Lets start with the arguments for Skype and online interpreting.

Skype has been a wonderful innovation for me. I have been lucky to have a good relationship with Auslan Services and they have been innovative in establishing a Skype interpreting service. The benefits for me have been enormous. I live in the country and my role covers an area that is almost half of Victoria. I must have meetings in remote places and if I were to transport sign language interpreters to all of these areas there would be nothing left in my work budget, and this is even with the Government subsidy. Skype has reduced my interpreting bill by over 75 %.  It has made my job just so much easier.  Even when interpreters in Victoria were booked out I have managed, through Auslan Services, to source interpreters in Sydney or Adelaide.  It has been a godsend.  I strongly believe that online interpreting will continue to grow.  I can see interpreters setting up in their own homes and delivering the bulk of their interpreting online.  I have used mobile modems at around 90% success rate.  Where I can get access to Ethernet or wireless my success rate has been 100%. I have had meetings one on one or where the group has been up to 20 participants.  I even used Skype interpreting in Canberra for a video shoot.

In the not to distant future online interpreting is going to provide MORE access. Where interpreting time was chewed up in interpreters travelling on the road this is now going to be reduced meaning more time is available to interpret.  Deaf people are going to take their laptops to the doctor and have interpreters beamed up for their consultations.  Universities and places of learning, foresee-ably, will set up booths, and interpreters will be beamed to lecture theatres and tutorials. The sky really is the limit. Again, because we will soon have the NBN, now is the time to explore possibilities and set up protocols. Time is of the essence.

BUT, despite all these benefits there is justifiable resistance. One of the worries is that any Tom Dick or Sally will set up a Skype business and work unmonitored and be totally unqualified for the work. There is a fear that Deaf people will have online interpreting forced upon them. The fear is that they will have no choice but to accept online interpreting,  even though they prefer face to face interpreting.  God forbid if they do not have the required technology and interpreters become cushy stay at home workers who do not want to travel.  The possibility is that access will be reduced for many rather than enhanced.

Most of all online interpreting IS NOT suitable for everything and everyone. At the Deaf Australia conferences in Hobart this year Jemina Napier and Marcel Lenehan gave a paper on the issue of online interpreting in the NSW court system, particularly to remote areas. The NSW court system is keen to set up online interpreting and commissioned a study into its use.  Macquarie University, where Ms Napier and Mr Leneham are based, carried out the study. The results were not positive.  A court structure is not well set up for online interpreting,  positioning of cameras, location of the witness box, the dock, court personnel and the like gave rise to a myriad of difficulties in conveying information.  A court is not a flexible place and the study highlighted situations that potentially could put the Deaf person at extreme disadvantage.  This clearly is not acceptable when mis-communication could be the difference between gaol or freedom. The recommendation was that in the current climate online interpreting not be used in court situations.  Despite the recommendation the NSW courts are apparently pushing on in exploring how online interpreting be used in court situations.  This is just one example where online interpreting could potentially cause more problems than it solves.

Online interpreting or teaching of sign language is not the answer to everything.  The rapid developments in online access is exciting but Deaf people and interpreter advocates  are right to exercise caution and seek answers. I am one of those that is like a child on a lolly shop, excited at all the possibilities BUT we need to provide choice and ensure Deaf people are not disadvantaged.  Often the push for online solutions is about cost and not choice, this should never be the case.  Resistance is often futile but in this case it is necessary.  However,  lets not resist to the point where we will cut of our noses to spite our faces. Flexibility And adaptability are the key words but lets ensure choice is not compromised in our insatiable quest for progress.

 

 

The Deaf Community Strikes Back

The Deaf community is forever under threat. Our society wants to fix everything. Deaf people must be HEARING.  First it was the cochlear implant. Through cochlear implants deaf people were going to be able to HEAR and assimilate. Then it was genetics. The Deaf gene has been identified. If identified parents who do not wish to have deaf babies can just abort. Then of course there is stem cell therapy. Through stem cell growth the thousands of tiny nerves and hair cells that can transmit sound to the brain can be restored and deaf people can become hearing. Diseases that caused deafness in the past such as Scarlet Fever or Rubella are well and truly under control leading to the incidence of deafness reducing dramatically. With all these threats it is a wonder that there is any Deaf community left at all.

But the biggest threat to the Deaf community is, arguably, not the medical fraternity but our iconic Deaf organisations themselves. Indeed Padden, in her paper, The Decline of Deaf Clubs in the United States, claims that there are very few places left that deaf people can call their own. More importantly Padden alludes that the health of a community is often measured by its “bricks and mortar.” Deaf clubs in the past were places where Deaf people met and conducted their business. They raised money through sales of alcohol and foods as well as other fund-raising initiatives. They provided Deaf people with control, pride and motivation. All of these things Padden describes in her paper.  It is a truism to state that  she could well be describing the situation in Australia and not the United States.

It is interesting, if one researches the establishment of Deaf Societies in Australia, they will discover that they were often started by Deaf people themselves. They were established as safe havens, a place where Deaf people could meet and socialise. Although I have not read it, John Flynn’s book, No Longer by Gaslight, apparently describes how Deaf people used to meet under a gaslight to converse, light being essential for their communication. The establishment of the Victorian Deaf Society meant that they could meet in comfort and “No Longer by Gaslight.” Deaf Societies were places that were the hive of activity of the Deaf community. Even the iconic Victorian College of the Deaf and its Bluestone buildings were established by a Deaf man,  FJ Rose. In those early days everything seems to have been driven by Deaf people themselves. Of course it was not that simple, many other benefactors were involved including the church who had the aim of “saving souls”,  but still Deaf people were there and at the forefront.

It is at these Deaf Societies that Deaf clubs were based. I first entered a Deaf club at 262 South Terrace in the early 80’s. I was an excited teenage boy chasing skirt. The Deaf club, at that time, was a mass of activity. Every Friday night it was packed. At the  262 I met people who have become friends for life. In the 90’s attendance at the Deaf club slowed to a trickle. Society had changed. Technology and choice meant that Deaf people were becoming more sophisticated. Where  in the past the only way of meeting people was at an agreed time at the Deaf club suddenly the telephone became accessible. Deaf people could now communicate at will. The TTY, SMS and email all meant that Deaf people had another means to keep in touch that did not require meeting at the Deaf club. A quick call on the TTY and an alternate meeting place could be found. Consequently it could be argued that the value and need for the Deaf club declined.

Technology probably played a part in the decline of the Deaf club around Australia but it was not the only reason.  Deaf Societies that were in the past a community based place became more “business” like. Everything became about dollars and cents and maximising assets. The rot started in NSW when the old Stanmore Deaf Society was sold.  Stanmore at one stage had a bowling Green out the back, a squash court and a thriving Deaf Club. Cost to maintain the green saw it abandoned and the opportunity to make a buck on the property,  in the end, became too much to ignore. Stanmore was sold and with it went the Deaf club. The Deaf Society moved to Parramatta and became a place where “welfare” happened. There was no longer a meeting place for the Deaf community. Increasingly Deaf people became marginalised with nowhere to go. Having lost its “bricks and mortar” at Stanmore it could be argued that the NSW Deaf community lost its soul. Something that, even today, it is struggling to recover.

A similar occurrence happened in Victoria. The Victorian Deaf Society, that hosted the Jolimont Deaf Sports and Social Club, was also sold.  In this case the reasons for the sale were not just to make money but also reduce overheads and risks. The old Deaf Society was falling down. Maintenance was swallowing funds. The buildings were not air-conditioned and in many cases were apparently an OHS risk.  After a period of consulting with the Deaf community it was agreed to sell up and move to the current premises. The old and iconic Jolimont Deaf Club was no more. It was replaced by the John Lovett Community Centre.

But, in my view, something went amiss in the planning. The Deaf community now had no control over the use of the Community centre. They had to compete with the Victorian Deaf Society staff and programs for its usage. Where as in the past they had a club that was “their own” with a bar, meeting places and even snooker tables they suddenly now only had a very small and soulless meeting room with a kitchen. A room that, even now, is not fully accessible. The Deaf community lost  many revenue sources including bar takings, and car parking revenue from sporting events at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.  Perhaps more tellingly and valuable, it lost its autonomy.  I mean now after 6pm one must carry a mobile phone. If you arrive after 6 pm you have to text someone upstairs to let you in. That someone must have a swipe card to operate the lift.  There is no soul, no ownership and no “bricks and mortar”.

BUT! It seems that the Deaf community is striking back. After years of being stagnant it has rediscovered its mojo. Deaf Sports Recreation Victoria (DSRV) are one of those organisations that are striking back. Not too long ago DSRV were in a mess. Post Deaflympics 2005 should have seen DSRV thriving. Instead, despite being based in Melbourne, it somehow missed the boat. It was an organisation on its knees.  DSRV is what was created when the Jolimont Deaf club ceased to be. For a time DSRV struggled to find its purpose. It had no home and seemingly no role. Its funding from Vicdeaf had been cut. While Vicdeaf provide it with free office space and a paltry $5000 a year DSRV were pretty much left in the lurch. Funding from the Government had remained static with no increase in over a decade. Not too long ago, despite the hard work of volunteer Board members it was very close to being broke. It required a serious reinvention of the organisation re-branding and refocusing.

DSRV had been heavily into sport. It branched out to seek further funding in recreation. It reestablished its reputation with the  State Government as the peak body for sport and recreation in Victoria. It managed to secure funding for projects and found its place in the community. This year it has organised a series of innovative and exciting events for the Deaf community. Trips to the snow, bike rides, ice skating, doggy day outs and more. Its alive and vibrant. It has resurrected itself with the dedication, drive, commitment and TALENT of DEAF people.  Its new president, Grant Roberts, has given it spark and leadership and its young and motivated Board has given it energy and purpose.

In NSW the Deaf community refuses to lie down. Despite having no community centre to speak of a dedicated band of volunteers ensures the DEAF CLUB lives at the Burwood RSL. Every week on Facebook there is something happening. Poker nights, monthly Deaf club nights, Fancy dress nights a small and dedicated band of volunteers brings the Deaf community together. And thank god they do because without them NSW may well have nothing. They are still struggling to set up a peak body for sport and recreation but they are slowly coming back to life.

Over in South Australia I recently gave an information session to the SA Deaf Community about the Australian Deaf Games. The 262 club rooms were packed. Not for me but for club night, I was an unfortunate distraction to the fun and games. In the 90’s and early 2000’s the SA Deaf community was asleep. It came alive only because of the efforts of its members to see it thrive. Witness Kats Parker galvinising the community through whatever means she can. She is everywhere. Kats is ably supported by Tim Morgan and Tanya Morgan (Not related). Together with old stalwarts  like Donovan Cresdee they have reminded Deaf Can Do that the Deaf community EXISTS and is going nowhere.  This year they celebrated 50 years of Deaf Basketball, they are celebrating 120 years of the Deaf Society. Events are being organised left right and centre and being LED by Deaf people. The talent and drive on display is outstanding.

Back in Victoria the old Victorian Council of Deaf People and now known as Deaf Victoria has sparked into life. Its restructured itself, re-branded itself and is out there consulting and encouraging the Deaf community to sit up and care. Recently, despite limited budget, they made a brilliant video to let the Deaf community know how important it is for them to record Auslan on the Census. Sure they took dramatic license, and in doing so put a few noses out of joint, but they showed courage, creativity and innovation. BUT mostly THEY made it happen! And on a shoestring budget at that.

Up in Queensland a young Deaf Athlete has been discriminated against. Deaf Sport Queensland have gone into battle for him. The Schools Athletics body is refusing to make their events  accessible for the young deaf guy. Through working closely with DSA and the legendary Dean Barton-Smith they have managed to create a national campaign to bring awareness to the situation.  Recently they received coverage through the news. It has been a skillful and cleverly orchestrated campaign and one that has been put in place by DEAF people, nearly all of them volunteers.

The talent and drive that exists in the Deaf community is outstanding. Most of the people keeping the Deaf community alive are dedicated volunteers. They do work, that if carried out by our Deaf Societies, that were ironically set up by Deaf people for Deaf people, would cost hundreds and thousands of dollars. Deaf Societies just do not give the Deaf community the recognition it deserves financially or otherwise. A free office and $5 000 just does not hack it. At this moment I am proud to watch the Deaf community strike back. It has been on its knees and attacked from all quarters whether it be medical sectors or Deaf societies that fail to recognise the real importance of COMMUNITY. What it needs now is “Bricks and Mortar”. The challenge for Deaf Societies is to help rebuild the foundations that they unwittingly knocked over.