Understanding Dimity

This is purely a speculative piece. Understanding Dimity is no easy task. She is a business woman and this article is an amateur analysis of her business mind. It could either be close to reality or way off the beaten track.

Ms Dimity is on the marketing campaign again. Dimity is the lady at the helm of the Hear and  Say Centre in Queensland. She is a staunch advocate for hearing technology and teaching deaf kids to hear and speak. Her Centre is at the forefront of oral education in Australia. She has won awards and fights hard to get funding for her Centre. Dimity recently won business woman of the year. Being the business person she is, she could not help but give The Hear and Say Centre a plug along with her philosophies. She is well aware of staying on track and being consistent with her message. She is an astute politician as well as business woman. Said Dimity, “Deafness is a scourge that can be eradicated and consigned to history, just like polio.” It seems an extreme statement and may have been taken out of context. However, Dimity has form for similar statements so it seems unlikely. Dimity is fond of telling the story of the little deaf boy she met at the bus stop. He was crying and had lost his bus money. She was moved by his inability to communicate and was inspired to set up the Hear and Say Centre. The rest, as they say, is history. You can read about Dimity and her award at this link – Dimity 

Dimity is very much of the view that deafness is a bad thing.  For many, deafness can be a bad thing. Later deafened people find losing their hearing traumatic. When a person loses their hearing  they face challenges just to communicate with their family and friends. Things that they may have valued like music are no longer accessible. They cannot speak on the phone. Work meetings become impossible. Adapting to deafness is hard work. For them a cure to deafness would be a godsend. These people and their families will relate to and embrace Dimity’s message. For most hearing people becoming deaf is a frightening concept. They value what their hearing provides to them. The majority will embrace Dimity’s message if only because it is all that they know. Indeed in Australia most people will read what Dimity has to say about eradicating deafness and be cheering Dimity on. Dimity knows this and milks it for all that it is worth. She knows that these people are the ones that will provide the bulk of the fund-raising dollar to her Centre.  Hence she is disciplined and sticks rigorously to message, never deviating.

Dimity also milks deaf children to the hilt. She knows that by raising the spectre of deaf kids, cured, speaking and enjoying all that hearing has to offer she will tug on the heart strings.  Richard A Friedman, writing in the New York Times described some of the motives that encourage people to donate. (Behind EAch Donation, November 2005) It is Friedman’s view that natural disasters inspire people to donate. Dimity knows this too. She paints a picture of Deafness being a disaster, a wreckage that must be prevented and fixed at all costs. People who are deaf are a rubble that needs to be rebuilt. What’s broken needs to be replaced and fixed. Deaf people are the demolished buildings that need to be resurrected. Dimity pushes this message for all it is worth. Deafness, make no mistake, is a disaster. That is what she wants the public to believe. Sadly, the majority do and these people are her market.

Friedman also talks about the types of people most likely to donate. It’s Friedman’s view that older people, rich people donate more. It is not limited to these people but definitely the older someone is and the more money they have, the more likely they feel the need to give back. You can bet your bottom dollar that Dimity has a strategy to target these business people; well established business people and older people. It is these people that are most likely to respond to her message and are her bread and butter. Possibly older people sensing their mortality, knowing that they could lose their hearing as they age resonate with Dimity’s disaster message. It’s bad enough that they may go deaf, but children? That’s terrible! Let’s fix it. Dimity did not win business woman of the year for nothing. She knows what she is doing. Indeed she believes so much in what she is doing that she will do all that is required to achieve her aim. She is as cynical and ruthless as the most hard nosed business person.

And then of course, Dimity plays on hope. She makes the comparison to Polio because it is a disease that we have beaten. She knows it has impacted on millions of people. By likening deafness to Polio thousands of potential sponsors can be attracted. Parents that see deafness as a deficit grasp at the hope. They enrol at the Hear and Say Centre. Numbers increase. Government funding increases. Like the buildings that rose from the destruction of the Twin Towers, lives can be rebuilt. There is hope for the future of any unfortunate child born deaf.  Sure the Deaf community finds it offensive but the Deaf Community make up a very small percentage of the population. They are not Dimity’s concern. She is on a mission and she is going to succeed no matter what. It is hard to write this as it is the very opposite of what I feel BUT a wise man once said that to win, one must get into the mind of the enemy. And this is a battle we must win.

And yes she targets the Deaf community. She does it for a reason. Mark my word when she made the Polio comment SHE knew it was going to offend the Deaf Community and its advocates. SHE wanted a response to keep drawing attention to her mission. SHE knows that the majority of people don’t understand the values of the Deaf Community and for them to understand is a long process. People know hearing but they don’t know deaf and indeed they don’t want to. To them hearing is normality; deafness deficit. When we all scream GENOCIDE it plays right into Dimity’s hands.  To most Australians deafness is something that needs to be fixed like cancer. To them comparing curing deafness to genocide is, for most, incomprehensible.  When the Deaf Community attack Dimity she becomes the victim. This good lady that is working hard to FIX deafness. How dare we attack her?! She will milk this negative publicity for all it is worth and turn it into a positive for herself.

And yes Dimity is dangerous. She is misleading people. She is giving false hope. Parents think their child can be fixed. And when the child doesn’t achieve normality anger, grieving, blaming and good old fashioned heart ache is the outcome. Yes Dimity must be stopped. Yes she is a despot BUT somehow we have to be smarter and not play into her hands. But how? People have compared Dimity to Andrew Bolt who lost a case in court recently for writing discriminatory things about Aboriginal people in his newspaper column. But Dimity is not the same. Bolt is just an egotistical journalist who is hugely not liked. Dimity is seen as some kind of saint who helps poor little deaf kids. While there are similarities Bolt and Dimity are, in reality, poles apart.

Colin Allen has given it a go and I believe he is on he right track. Rather than attack Dimity he has reminded people of Australia’s obligations under the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with a Disability. Mr Allen has, in particular, highlighted the sections in the convention that state countries must provide access to sign language. But while Dimity does not embrace sign language she hasn’t, as far as I know, attacked its use. She has just promoted  her alternative. The United Nations also have a Convention of the Rights of a Child. A good lawyer will show that the rights of people with a disability and the rights of a child can conflict. For example the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the child states, ” ….that the peoples of the United Nations have, in the Charter, reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights and in the dignity and worth of the human person, and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.” A good lawyer is going to argue that allowing a child to be deaf is putting them at disadvantage, prejudice, inequality, poor education and so on.  All of the things WE point out happen to deaf people because society doesn’t provide fully for our needs.In short the United Nations Convention is a document that can almost be interpreted at will. As I said Mr Allen is on the right track but I am not sure just how useful the Convention will be in the long run.

Where Colin Allen has pulled a master stroke is by inviting Dimity to attend a Deaf Festival. Offering a hand of friendship to educate and inform Dimity of the positives of the Deaf community is a smart move. If she refuses it looks like she is snubbing people. But then and again, given the abuse she has received, justified abuse in many cases, she could argue that she did not feel safe and that is the reason she is staying away. Dimity holds so many aces it is not funny.

SO where to from here? How can we fight back? Well clearly we have to think LIKE Dimity. We have to sit back and THINK like the majority of Australians. We have to realise that our views and experiences of deafness are not that of most people and somehow we have to inform them without being  seen as extremist. When we we talk of genocide, when we talk of prosecuting Dimity – believe me WE are the minority and its not a view that a lot of people share because DIMITY is seen as a savior. When we use these extreme terms we lose the very people we need onside to support us and that is the general public of Australia.

I suspect that the only way forward is through positive stories and by promoting the Deaf community in a positive light. I suspect strategies like Colin Allen’s invitation to Dimity to take part in the Festival are the right way forward. My friend Bryn suggested inviting Dimity to the Australian Deaf Games, one of the oldest ongoing sporting events in the world. Perhaps we should be using the Deaf Games as a means to rebut Dimity’s views and show the Deaf community in a positive light.  Perhaps bringing out our big guns like Colin, the WFD President, Dean Barton Smith our ex Olympian at both deaf and hearing Olympics, our artists and academics who are positive role models, is necessary. Positive actions and positive stories this may be the only way that we can get people to see the other side of the coin.

Dimity just has too much support and influence.  We have to fight back but let’s not play into her hands.




11 thoughts on “Understanding Dimity

  1. Well written, and I agree that we have to rethink in a positive way and its up to us, only us to promote the deaf community in a positive light to the whole of Australia and not just Dimity, we also need the support of others and to influence the whole community about the positive of Deaf Community.

    A hearing man once said to me that Deaf people are racist (and I have heard this from few other hearing people). Previously, I had be offended by this, and would argue back at them, however when I stop and look around me at many deaf people and their behaviour towards hearing communities, to a degree those people are right to say that deaf people are racist. Many deaf people will not and WONT embrace the wider community and find a way to educate them and show them the positive of deaf community.

    Really its time to get together and show the world the positive side of us!

  2. Very well thought out. The challenge, as always for a minority, will be formulating and structuring a discussion that can be understood by the colonizing majority, without losing your cultural difference.

    Unfortunately Deb, it can be very true that Deaf people are prejudiced against hearing people. I understand it – the daily grind of being oppressed does that, not to mention when you have to weather storms of prejudice like Dornan’s. But it does make it hard for those of us hearing who *do* want to support the Deaf community. I think the “racism” is no more apparent than in the fact that by and large the Deaf community can find no place for hearing families with a Deaf member. I, for example, am the wife of a Deaf man, who after marriage who has chosen to live entirely within the Deaf community. Now I have a Deaf child in my care. But even though I am experienced in business, policy and strategy, there is no place for me in helping to fight battles like this, because my ears work. Likewise, my Deaf child’s hard of hearing sister is currently able to join in Deaf children’s events, but identifying as hearing impaired rather than Deaf, she doesn’t quite fit.

    The Deaf community is often likened to Aboriginal nations, but within the Aboriginal nations, despite my foreignness, I am given a place – I am allocated a “skin name” that allows for the community to know how to relate to me, and for those white fellas who demonstrate significant loyalty to the tribe, they are ascribed a certain amount of authority in the community. However, while different hearing people might hold sway with certain Deaf friends, there are very few who are ascribed any level of social legitimacy or authority within the community level. The lack of “place” for hearing people is a significant one that would go a long way to resolving the apparent “racism” of the Deaf community. But I’m not sure that such a thing could happen without first significant emotional healing of many in the community, and a community level forgiveness of hearing people for past and current oppressions and ignorances and arrogances, and a community level reconciliation… A Sorry day type occurrence.

    • Cate, I would love yoiu to write a piece for The Rebuttal on this topic. Interesting indeed. Deb thanks for raising it,

  3. Yes the waves of insanity emanating from the deaf blogging and video blogging websites like deafread, deafvideotv, and deafcube websites are being picked up by powerful people that are making these statements that put down the Capital “D” deaf communities. Represented by the hardline sign language users, the Capital “D” deaf communities all asked for it by disrespecting the small “d” deaf members, represented by orally speaking deaf and the hard of hearing, of the deaf society. Disrespecting them as they recently have done to a number of high profile small “d” members of the deaf society, they gave the small “d” members enormous power and plenty of energy to blow the horn about it. They blew the horns and Dr. Dimity Dornan heard them.

  4. They say Black Americans are racists too, but all they are doing is denying their experience and distracting the real problem. Or even bother walking in their shoes (and scared to walk in their shoes because it would mean oppression).

    another thing comes to mind is homosexual/Lesbian. There are Christian organizations who love to cure gay and put them in therapy. They have no shame in saying gay is a sin and need a christian therapy to repent (they think once a gay person acknowledge his sin and how dirty it is, he will leave old life behind and begin a new life under God’s rules). Because they truly believe that.

  5. Excellent article, and the points are clearly made. Dimity is a dangerous person because she reinforces prejudices of the wider Hearing community and plays on them repeatedly for her own goals, not necessarily for the good of the Deaf community.

    We need to fight her and her methods, and fight those of other organizations that promote only their professions and not the well-being of their clients. Our ultimate goal is to gain acceptance and respect as whole human beings with capabilities of contributing to the world, and people such as Dimity do not help that cause.

  6. Oscar Wilde once said ‘By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.’

  7. “I suspect that the only way forward is through positive stories and by promoting the Deaf community in a positive light.”

    That means winding up 3 major support charities in the UK, one solely for the deaf child, as they base their whole remits on cures, non-involvement by sign users, and promoting the medical models of deafness. Nobody ever helped raise deaf awareness in the UK cash-wise by promoting empowerment good news…. it doesn’t illicit sympathy or empathy. Even deaf awareness medias depend on handouts from disability funding, I think the message lost frankly. For max awareness they want untold misery.

  8. An interesting read.

    I have been observing all the comments made on this page, FB, Twitter, websites, news articles etc.

    It has certainly been an interesting few weeks along with the Deaf athlete issues that has gained nationwide awareness.

    Hence I like to share my personal comments.

    1) Isn’t it interesting despite concerted efforts and achievements made by number of deaf individuals, very rarely they get recognized let along nominated for prestigious awards. Yet ‘hearing people’ serving in the same field get kudos and high profile media exposure. Is this because we lack in not trying and make it known and nominate those worthy to be seriously considered rather than be marginalized to a ‘disability award’?

    2) Are those within the deafness sector really, really making concerted efforts to push out the success and achievements of deaf Australians to show the mainstream community that they too have made an impact that also helps the mainstream community let alone the family/friends/colleges close to us? If we are great, but maybe it needs some rethinking in how we strategically position and exploit the impacts we are making.

    3) I commend both what QDS, Colin Allen and co in making a diplomatic approach to invite those who may share a different opinion and making comments (whether rightly or wrongly, taken out of context or not) to meet and/or attend specific events. But why not take it to another level? Why not be bold and stage a nationwide leaders round-table that consist of ALL those who are serving in the interest if deafness and bring these issues to head and allow open, frank, honest and transparent discussion – without fear or favour with a view that greater awareness, understanding and sensitivity is achieved and everyone knows and truly appreciates each position and be conscious of what they say especially the implications of the flow on effect it has to the uneducated public? A big ask? Am I dreaming? Well consider this:

    Imagine a round table that consist of, but not limited to, the following leading Australians (call it Australian Heads of Deafness Summit)

    WFD President, Deaf Australia President, Deafness Forum President, AFDO President,
    Aussie Deaf Kids President, high profile Deaflympians and Olympians, Leading advocates, Deaf and HoH Societies Presidents, leading professors, academics, Dimity Dornan, Professor Graham Clark as a sample.

    Imagine what, with a good facilitator, could be achieved if they were all in a locked room sharing and airing thoughts, opinions and way forward with a sense of solidarity that can only achieve a united stronger voice that doesn’t lead to media making a speculation if intra-deafness sector infighting that only achieves negative perception to the public. Those who decline to attend without a very valid reason will have this marked against them to failing to show true leadership and each prepared to extend an olive branch.

    Naive thinking? Well when did this ever happened in the past?

    Seems some are able to acquire mega $m which befits a few but with solidarity we could acquire $x00m+ that benefits many!

    If this can be achieved and with a written pledge by all, imagine what the future would look like? A disjointed one? I think not.

    3) Perhaps we need to be proactive and recognize and really,really exploit deaf Australians achievement to the extent that hearing people do.

    The strength and power is in the numbers. The media and public won’t know unless we beat the drum and create the hype. We will not get deserving deaf Australians granted awards (including more AM, AO, OAM etc) if we don’t make an effort to apply. If not you, who?

    Whilst hearing people in deafness sector advance and get rewarded for ‘changing lives or making our future that much better’ (mind you some still should not be neglected) deaf people will remain faceless and have lower profile/influence. If they have rattled a cage that generates media / public awareness so be it. It only puts the issue at the forefront of how public perceives deaf Australians. Look at how other high profile hearing people get called upon to partake in TV shows, interviews. Because public like debates and gets people thinking.

    Are we being too shy rather than being too proud? No one died sharing their opinion so long as it doesn’t create unnecessary hurdles or further degradation of deaf Australians let along young deaf children (and those who support them)

    Dean Barton Smith

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