Fiddling while Rome Burns – The NDIS

Graeme Innes, Disability Commissioner for the Australian Human Rights Commission, is a wee bit upset this morning. We know this because he has been active on Twitter and Facebook letting people know he isn’t pleased with the current state of progress with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Mr Innes tweeted, “Australians are ashamed we’re 27th out of 27th in OECD for correlation between disability & poverty” (sic)

This was one of many comments Mr Innes made throughout the morning. He made a call to Australia’s political parties to stop the political games and get on with the job of rolling out the NDIS. This was all in response to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting that had spent the previous day discussing the roll out of the NDIS. To the surprise of no one State Labor Governments were forthcoming with state funds to support Federal Labor in its roll out of the NDIS. On the other hand Liberal State Governments refused to come to the table. Prime Minister Gillard probably did not help things by egging the Liberal Governments on when she appeared on the ABC current affairs show, Lateline.  “We’ve put  $1Billion into the kitty even though times are tough but the Liberal Governments will give NOTHING.”, she wailed, or words to that effect. She had a point but such is my cynicism about politics at the moment that I only see her comments as an attempt at political point scoring.

But Gillard and Innes were absolutely correct when they both stated virtually the same thing. In doing so one wonders whether they are scheming on this together, although Mr Innes is supposed to be entirely neutral of any political influence. But anyway this is what they both said, “It is unacceptable for people to be only having two showers a week, or leaving their house several times a year.” Sadly this is indeed the case for many. It is for this reason that Australia is rank last among all OECD countries when it comes to disability support. To be precise Australia is 27th of 27 nations. Innes believes this is Australia’s shame.  It is, but does mainstream Australia really care? Who outside of the disability sector is really following this debate?

The NDIS was introduced to much fanfare. It brought with it much hope for people with disabilities. It is now rapidly descending into farce as our political leaders use it to score political points, either by trying to show that that they are champions of disability or by trying to embarrass opposing members of the political spectrum. They all support the NDIS they say but at the end of the day, instead of finding ways to make it happen, they are playing politics and squabbling over money. The needs of disability seem to figure very low in the priorities of the debate. Sadly as a result the NDIS is at an impasse.

Originally the NDIS was supposed to have been self-funding. It was supposed to have been a similar scheme to Medicare. The idea was that a percentage of everyone’s salary was paid to fund it. The argument for this was that everyone at some stage had the potential to acquire a disability. People can be born with a disability or they can acquire a disability from accident, disease or simply from aging. Through the NDIS a levy would fund everyone with a disability, whether it was acquired at birth or later in life. As it stands now, the system is not equal. If you have a car accident and acquire a disability your third party insurance provides you with a payout to fund your needs. But if you acquire your disability through illness or an accident in your garden the situation is very different. It is different in a sense that you may have no easy access to support funds unless you had adequate insurance.  An NDIS was supposed to be able to provide for all people with a disability, regardless of age or circumstances that the disability was acquired.

In its wisdom the Government has discarded the idea of such a levy. They have done so because they believe that disability is CORE business of the Government and therefore should be funded from general tax revenue. This is not an argument I understand because, arguably, health is also core business but we fund much of our health needs through a Medicare levy. The more cynical among us, of whom I am one, might see the shift away from the introduction of a levy as the Government, and opposition, shying away from introducing another tax. Like it or not a tax is essentially what an NDIS levy would be.

We still do not know what an NDIS will entail. The buzz word in early debates about the NDIS was that it would be self directed. Funds would be allocated and the person with a disability would allocate these funds to meet their needs. Those that lacked the capacity to direct their own funding would receive support to do so. This has now changed too. The word ‘funding’ is no longer used instead we are hearing the term ‘entitlement’

Now there is a big difference between ‘funding’ and ‘entitlement’. Self directed ‘funding’ is actual access to the money and directing this money to purchase services and support as required. The word ‘entitlement’ means that you are allowed a choice between options that are classified as ‘entitlements’. What this means is that, if the Government has its way with the NDIS, there will be a list of ‘suppliers’ that you are ‘entitled’ to choose from. The suppliers will be services, probably already out there, who are eligible to be used under the NDIS.

The Government wants this because it will prevent people using family members as support people. What the Government does not want is a person with a disability receiving their funds and directing these funds to family members to provide their support. Or individuals with disabilities might, for example, want to advertise for a support person, interview individuals and decide on people who they are comfortable with to provide their support. The Government does not want this either. There is to be no such choice or flexibility – You will only be able to choose from a list of ‘entitlements’ provided by eligible ‘suppliers’. If you think the NDIS meant autonomy, as in full control, think again. It will be nothing of the sort.

And the word disability is bandied about as if it means all people with a disability. It is clear in these early stages that this is far from the case. Debate is almost entirely about people with disabilities who have care needs. These needs include showering, feeding, getting dressed or support to get out and about. The needs of these people figure prominently in examples of how the NDIS will help that are given by our politicians. Gillard and Innes last night and today spoke of those ‘two showers a week’ people. They spoke of those people who can only, “get out of their house several times a year.” This has been the pattern throughout the NDIS debate.

There is no question that these individuals are and should be a priority in the initial stages of the NDIS roll-out. However, what is not clear is whether these individuals are the only people that the NDIS will focus on in the long term. If you look at the steering groups that have been established by the government to assist with the roll-out of the NDIS they are heavily weighted with representatives from physical disabilities and carers groups. The Deaf are wondering what is in it for them. The blind are wondering what is in it for them. What of people with mental illness? It is not clear when, or if ever, the NDIS will actually cater for groups of people with a disability who do not need personal care and support. If you are a deaf person and thinking of putting your hard earned savings to your retirement fund or next holiday because the NDIS will pay for your hearing aid or cochlear implant upgrade, well that retirement and holiday may have to wait a wee bit longer.

The Government persists in using the term ‘significant disability’. This is a deliberately vague term that allows them to classify the types of disability that can be supported through the NDIS. I have yet to see a definition of the Governments understanding of ‘significant disability’. As I have said, I have no problem in the initial stages of the roll-out of the NDIS with those individuals who have pressing personal and care needs receiving priority. However, if these are the only people that the Government is targeting with the NDIS then the Government needs to come clean now.

The NDIS roll-out is definitely a case of ‘Nero fiddling while Rome burns.’ While the Government and the opposition play political football with people who have disabilities the NDIS remains in limbo. Not only are people with disabilities not having their most basic needs met but the crucial issues of the structure of the NDIS and eligibility for the NDIS remains in limbo. The real shame is that political survival is being put before real need … People with disabilities deserve better than that!

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Fairness is BUNK!

There are long periods in the history of any society during which certain basic questions lead to deep and sharp conflict and it seems difficult if not impossible to find any reasoned common ground for political agreement. (John Rawls, taken from Justice as Fairness) Rawls could be talking about almost any community big or small. Communities have conflict and often there is seemingly no resolution to them. The Deaf sector is no exception, conflicts abound. There is conflict about captioned cinema where opinion is divided between financial gain, self preservation,  liking, loathing and acceptance of CaptiView.  Recently Deaf Football Australia and Deaf Sport Australia had a very public stoush on Facebook that is ongoing. The recent article from The Rebuttal highlighted differing views on effectiveness of the Kangan Auslan courses. Disputes are seemingly everywhere. We all seek ‘fair’ resolutions. But I wonder sometimes if I, or any of us, really understand what ‘fair’ is.

My parents are of good British stock. One of their core values is fairness. They ingrained into me that fairness was paramount. To them everyone is an equal and everyone should get a fair go. Sadly, I don’t always meet these lofty standards and neither did they. Largely in my work I am motivated by fairness. Whether it’s helping the intelligent young deaf woman in South Australia take on the Teachers Registration Board because they are placing unfair restrictions on her or whether it’s ensuring the young kid with mild cerebral palsy gets a fair run out in the Futsal team I coach … Fairness is at the core of what I do.

But fairness is relative. One person’s fairness is another’s unfair. It is very hard to find the balance. Often to find the balance of fairness two people have to come to the table. Imagine two kids. They have a piece of cake. They have to divide it fairly so each gets an equal piece. Anyone who is a parent will tell you that asking kids to decide what is equal is fraught with danger. You can bet if the parent cuts the cake one of the kids will moan, “but his bit is bigger”  

But there is a simple solution. If you are a parent and are confronted with this dilemma what you need to do is divide responsibility. First you get one kid to cut the cake and second you get the other to choose the piece he wants. I can almost guarantee that the kid that cuts the cake will cut it as equally as he possibly can so as to not be cheated. The kid that chooses the piece can’t complain either. It’s a win, win. The outcome is ‘just’ for everyone.

This win, win situation is so hard to achieve. As a writer I write about things that I perceive as unfair. I have a view that the captioning system, CaptiView, is unfair. It spoils the viewing pleasure, the font is small and yucky green, your eyes get strained, you miss bits of the movie when trying to read the captions, kids lack the coordination to use it and so on.

Now certain people think it is not fair that because many people don’t like the system, that because of this that they should miss out on captioning and access to movies. It gives them access and they don’t care how, just as long as they get access. The cinemas don’t think this view is fair either; after all they are spending the money on the system and doing all the work to introduce the system. How dare we be ungrateful? To each their argument is valid and the contrary argument is unfair. The result of these differing opinions of fairness is heated arguments and an ongoing dispute.

In most cases the people involved in the disagreements are, by and large, decent people. BUT they are being torn apart because they cannot find a FAIR solution that’s suitable to all of them. In the case of the CaptiView issue everyone that I have met in the campaign is a decent person. We all agree access needs to be better, the only thing that we cannot agree on is an acceptable solution. Because we can not agree we, particularly me, have been tearing strips off each other. Hell, I have encouraged haters of CaptiView to give our Peaks the middle finger. My wife, for daring to suggest something contrary, got told to “shut up” on the Action On Cinema Access Facebook page. Everyone is at loggerheads. There has to be a way forward.

Philosopher Angie Hobbs, writing in the BBC Today website, states that decisions aimed at fairness that cut into “dignity and rights of the individual will, therefore, not be fair.” She further highlights that there is often tension when decisions are based on, “the greatest good of the greatest number.” An example of this is where deaf people have become very angry In the CaptiView debate where it has been suggested that open captions will upset the majority of viewing patrons and therefore cannot be considered. The logic and method of this argument causes friction because the dignity and the needs of the deaf have been trampled upon. Without evidence I may add. ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9079000/9079254.stm )

I have been researching fairness and have come to the conclusion that fairness is bunk. Mainly because, as Rawls states in his theory of Justice as Fairness, we are naturally more concerned with our own aims and interests—which include our interests in the interests of those nearer and dearer to us—than we are with the interests of strangers with whom we have few if any interactions.” It is this self interest that often prevents resolution to conflict and has never been more evident than in the CaptiView saga. ( http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/original-position/#CirJus )

What we need to do is to somehow overcome this self interest and come up with a solution that is ‘just’ and incorporates the rights and liberties of all. We can’t get hung up in arguing what is fair. It’s fair that I work hard and earn good money but it is certainly unfair that billions of people the world over are starving to death simply because they were born into severe poverty. How is it fair that 81 % of the world’s wealth is in the hands of 54% of its population while the remaining 44% have just 19% of the wealth? There are 2.735 billion people who are surviving on less than $2 a day and they could be alleviated from poverty, according to American humanitarian Thomas Pogge, if just 1 percent of that 81% of wealth were directed towards them.  This is a ‘just’ outcome, not necessarily a fair one. One percent of 81% of the wealth is not going to make the rich poor but it will feed and provide a better quality of life for billions of people. Sadly self interest is preventing this from happening.  (http://www.law.georgetown.edu/faculty/events/userfiles/file/LawPhilosophy/Fall%202008/Pogge%20World%20Poverty%20and%20Human%20Rights.pdf )

Clearly focusing on what’s fair is getting us nowhere because one persons unfair is another’s fair and visa versa – we need to find another way forward. We need to find a solution like the kids cutting the cake that will satisfy us all. Rawls in Justice as Fairness suggests resolution can be achieved if, “some underlying basis of philosophical and moral agreement can be uncovered” If this is not possible Rawls believes that political differences can, “at least be narrowed so that social cooperation on a footing of mutual respect among citizens can still be maintained.”

The problem with the CaptiView dispute, (and probably every other dispute in the Deaf sector.), is that all the parties involved are only thinking of their own need. Each will dispute this but this may be the actual reality. The cinemas want as little outlay financially on the solution as possible with minimum disruption to the general viewing patron. Our peaks perhaps are basing their strategy on currying favour among Government representatives. The Government wants to ensure that the dispute does not backfire and make it look silly in public so is trying to pacify everyone. The Action On Cinema Access group want choices of access without seriously taking onboard any of the views of others because they want quality viewing pleasure. Supporters of CaptiView just want access and don’t really care that many cannot tolerate CaptiView because it offers them access to the cinema. As far as I can see, and all will dispute this, none are really working to establish common ground. They are all just frantically pushing their own agenda.

What is lacking, to steal Rawls words once again is, “social cooperation on a footing of mutual respect.” Self interest reigns and no one is really making an attempt to come to understanding of the viewpoints of others. I accept that some of the articles I have written in The Rebuttal have contributed to this divisiveness but the fact remains that until the parties involved come to the table and, as much as they possibly can, put their self interest aside to develop mutually beneficial and ‘just’ solutions everything will remain at an impasse.

Whether this is The CaptiView saga or the Deaf Football Australia and Deaf Sport Australia dispute the way forward is to look for ‘JUST’ solutions based on mutual respect and cooperation. Let’s start again using these principles and see if we can all find a way forward for a ‘just’ solution, not necessarily a fair one.

Erin's View ..

What we see below is a response from one of the staff of Kangan who has lost their job as the result of the staff cut’s. It’s a very passionate view and we print this here with permission.  In the comments section some of the issues raised have been responded to. We believe that in this saga it is important that people see all sides of the story and we are not beyond critisism. Further, we also believe that by openly seeing all sides of the coin people can become more open and discuss things and issues without fear of reprisals. Please do feel free to Rebut The Butt at any time!

ERIN’S VIEW

I was directed to your posting yesterday and after a great deal of thought would like to comment.

I am one of the three Kangan Auslan and Deaf Studies staff who was most recently made redundant. My last day was Friday, June 26. And I am devastated. The other two staff members finish at the end of this week. The remaining teaching and administration staff will all find themselves redundant before the end of this year. For anyone who has ever found themselves in this position, I extend to you my sympathy because as we are all discovering, this is a time of profound sadness, upheaval and uncertainty.

I was lucky enough to work within this department of remarkable professionals for a very brief six months while the two staff who will depart Friday has each invested more than 20 years of their lives educating the hundreds of students who have undertaken Auslan and Deaf Studies courses over more than two decades. I was one of these students. I commenced the Associate Diploma of Applied Social Sciences (Interpreting for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired) course in 1992. And I loved every minute of it.

I don’t intend nor want to buy in to any political debate, take sides or apportion blame in response to your comments or engage in debate for or against the closure of the course, I simply wish to say this; the last few months have been heartbreakingly difficult for all of us effected by this decision as well has it been for our friends and families who have been supporting us throughout. Therefore I implore that in future postings you be sensitive and respectful in your comments about the A&DSC staff, particularly those who remain and whose aim it is to ensure the current students are able to continue their studies with as little disruption and distraction as possible.
Posting anonymous alleged quotes from interpreters and past students which, let us be honest, are personal and cowardly in nature and shamefully appear at the worst possible time. Staff are incredibly vulnerable at the moment and these barbs are unhelpful, destructive and unnecessary. I implore you to please consider the impact of these remarks and exercise discretion in respect to whether it really is necessary that they be published in a public forum. You ask this of others in your conditions of use, please take your own lead in this matter.

The one last comment I would like to volunteer on this topic before I move on to another, is a very personal one. I felt absolutely crushed walking away from Kangan last Friday. I quite literally ached. I was also really angry that I had been robbed of the opportunity to continue on and support my colleagues and friends until the course as we know it ceases to exist. So having shared that, now try to imagine how hard it was to read those posts relating to the Kangan Auslan course inThe Rebuttal and discover there are some out there dancing on our graves. I was speechless.

In so far as the argument goes about young versus old interpreters, I feel somewhat qualified as a pretty old interpreter to say that I think attitude is everything. I have learned something from each and every interpreter with whom I’ve worked. Lessons can be as simple as ‘don’t ever eat a poppy seed bagel before a job’ or how to sign the ‘Welcome to Country’ as it absolutely should be done. Harking back to the Diploma of Auslan course, it is a foundation that in most cases equips us with language enough to apply to RMIT to study, learn and practise the interpreting component. Once we are qualified and out there, the learning never stops. Every single job, every encounter with someone who is deaf, every chance to work with another interpreter presents the opportunity to learn.

I think we each bring something of our own to this profession and it shouldn’t matter whether the package we bring it in has wrinkles or not! I most certainly have favourites and they are not necessarily all the wisest or worldliest. I get a kick out of working with the interpreters that still have sparkle and some after many, many years at that. I thrive in their company and they remind me why twenty years on, I still leap out of bed in the morning declaring, “Whey hey! Off to work!”. Truly. I do. Life experience is most definitely an advantage but so is a set of fresh eyes or a new take on something. Young interpreters will be old interpreters soon enough.

In regard to the subsequent posting on an interpreter’s entitlement to free speech without fearing loss of income, reputation or opportunity, I want to say that if I were a “learned interpreter” who found my lunch break musings with you about all things Kangan appear quoted on The Rebuttal, I would be seething. I agree that the interpreter who contacted you alarmed because others had assumed she/he had been the one whose comments appeared in your post had cause to be upset. Absolutely! No one wants to be outed for something they didn’t do. I acknowledge that the “learned interpreter” consented to being quoted in your article but I don’t know that they would have consented to the additional detail you supplied that may have lead to the confusion that ensued.

It is very important to be aware that even the smallest bites of information are sometimes detail enough to identify an interpreter (or a situation for that matter). “A few weeks back/ a very senior Auslan interpreter/booked with me/in the lunch break” may be meaningless to the uninitiated but to someone who may have been present at the
appointment/meeting where the exchange took place, knows your agenda or where you are employed and your preferred interpreters or is the agency responsible for assigning the said interpreter, the above details may just be enough to certainly identify the interpreter who made the remarks or at least cause people to assume they know the identity of the interpreter and wonder enough to pursue it – for whatever reason.

A number of controversial opinions were made and appeared in print and I can understand why some would like the person to be made accountable. But the real question that needs to be asked is what lead those who contacted the upset interpreter to believe she/he was the “learned interpreter” quoted in your blog?

Thank you very much for the opportunity to contribute. It took me about four and a half hours because I’m so frustratingly ponderous, a serial micro editor and re-writer but I got to watch an entire stage of the Tour de France as I did so and that was a beautiful thing.

Be good to each other out there.

A Message to Our Readers

Dear Rebuttal Readers

We are very proud of The Rebuttal. It has been going now for six years and published 223 articles in that time. In those six years The Rebuttal has received over a million hits and more than that in page views. It is not without influence.

On Tuesday we published what we considered to be a constructive and thought provoking look at the Kangan  Auslan Saga. We suggested among other things that the crisis had provided an opportunity to review and revamp Auslan Instruction to bring it into the 21st century. We suggested also that the current course fee structures were precluding a number of mature age students who because of their accumulated life experience would make excellent interpreters. We suggested that the Kangan course may have become outdated and now is an excellent time to improve it. We suggested that the VicDeaf entrance into the saga provided an opportunity to fill a void for students wanting to study part-time and this may help in diversifying student intake. Finally we suggested there was scope to include technology into Auslan instruction to make its delivery more relevant and flexible. We considered these suggestions constructive.

This was based on discussions that the author, Gary Kerridge, has had with several interpreters and people over the last few weeks. These interpreters fear speaking out for fear of being victimised. Said one, “If I speak out there is a high chance that some people will muddy my name and it will be impossible for me to work ever again.” What the hell is going on here?

Just half an hour ago from writing this the author received a text message from an interpreter colleague that said in part, “ Can you name the learned interpreter, everyone thinks it’s me and I am getting emails and phone calls from angry people accusing me.” This sort of victimisation is disgraceful and very sad. And all because The Rebuttal raised a few issues that are being said quietly but not openly. These issues are not being raised publicly because people fear victimisation. What a sad community we are living in.

We ask that people re-read The Rebuttal. We believe it has provided some constructive suggestions to improve Auslan instruction. Comments to the article have been generally supportive and understanding. For the life of us we cannot understand why people are angry.

Let it be known that The Rebuttal sees victimisation as a form of bullying and views this very seriously. The Rebuttal is a forum where readers can rebut what the author has written and these rebuts will be published. If you disagree, just write in and say so and put forward an alternate argument. It is that simple.

Lay off the witch-hunt. We have an environment where people already fear speaking out. The Rebuttal will continue to raise issues of importance to the deaf and disability community. What we will not do is name people and have them slandered and victimised when all they have done is speak up because they care.

We have two words for the people who are doing the victimisation … GROW UP. Surely we are all more tolerant than this.

The Kangan Saga – Making a Negative into a Positive.

In Victoria Auslan interpreting has been on the front page. Victoria has the only full-time Auslan course on the eastern side of Australia and is facing closure as the result of major Government cuts to TAFE funding. If you are an overseas reader, of which The Rebuttal has many, this is the equivalent of a Polytechnic. The course, which is provided by the Kangan Institute, has been the breeding ground for many interpreters in recent years. Without it, particularly in Victoria, supply of qualified interpreters to meet ever growing demand is not likely to be met. Not that it is now either but without the Kangan courses it is likely to get worse.

The students of Kangan and the Deaf community have been particularly vocal. They have held protests and have managed to get extensive media coverage to their cause. The issue was even debated in Parliament recently which led, for the first time I believe, to an interpreter actually being present on the floor of Victorian State Parliament. Despite all the anger and the doom and gloom the irony of this impending closure of the Auslan course at Kangan is that it has brought with it more attention and awareness about Auslan in the media than possibly ever before. This has been marvellous for the profession of interpreting as a whole and the Deaf community. In fact the whole Kangan saga could be the best thing that has happened for Auslan in many years.

A few weeks back I had a conversation about the Kangan dispute with a very senior Auslan interpreter. The interpreter had been booked for a job for me and in the lunch break we got chatting about what was happening. Startlingly the interpreter was not really a big fan of Kangan. To be more accurate the interpreter was a fan but felt that the Kangan Auslan courses had slipped in recent years. The interpreter suggested that the Kangan course had become outdated. The interpreter also suggested that TAFE course fee structures had meant that students coming in to the Kangan courses were students who could get assistance to pay course fees. (This assistance is essentially a debt that has to be paid back once the student begins to earn over a certain amount.) These students are usualy quite young and not necessarily worldly and experienced in the ways of the world. Interpreting covers many areas of life and this means experience and maturity can be vital components of an interpreters repertoire.

This is not to say that young interpreters are a bad thing it’s more to say that my interpreter colleague was suggesting that the balance has become out of synch. What my learned interpreter friend was suggesting was that there is a great need for older interpreters, experienced in the ways of the world of work and life in general. Such interpreters are familiar with terminology and concepts in a way that the younger brigade is not, simply because of the accumulation of life experience.

Unfortunately because of the fee structure these “older” students are often unable to pay fees upfront or afford the fee assistance which is essentially a loan. The younger ones usually do not have families and mortgages so are more willing to take on the course fee as a debt.  Older and more experienced students often can not get assistance particularly if they have already completed study in another area which, as I understand it, precludes them from any course fee assistance. Older, mature students with families who can get course fee assistance often have mortgages and the like and simply can not afford to take on more debt in the form of course fee assistance. ( Any readers that can explain the course fee issue better than I please do so in the comments section.)

Followers of the Kangan saga will know of the mysterious involvement of VicDeaf and the NSW Deaf Society. It is apparent that these two bodies had been negotiating to set up part time and accredited Auslan courses with the Victorian Government for some time. This was all hush, hush and only became apparent when the Minister outed them. These negotiations may actually be a good thing. If Vicdeaf and the NSW Deaf Society are able to set up these part time courses it may provide an avenue for these mature age students to become interpreters. Many cannot afford to study full-time so a part time equivalent may be the answer for them. Meanwhile, all going well, Kangan can continue with the full time courses although, given the current climate of cost cuts, these courses may be scaled back somewhat. We will just have to wait and see. But an opportunity exists and if handled well could lead to a more flexible delivery of Auslan and a broader student intake. (For people who are confused at the involvement of the NSW Deaf Society in Victoria, their involvement is essential as they are a Registered Training Organisation which is a requirement for providing accredited courses. Vicdeaf are not)

Surprisingly amongst all the support for Kangan there have been rumblings in the background that the Kangan course has become outdated. These rumblings are not just coming from my interpreter colleague. The rumblings suggest that for many years now that Kangan has been delivering the same curriculum with little by way of change to keep up with the changing environment in the Auslan field. If this is the case then the Kangan saga provides an opportunity to completely revamp the curriculum and bring it into the 21st Century. Let’s consider, for example, the use of technology in interpreting. Now Kangan is not technically an interpreter course but it does have an introduction to interpreting component and provides the foundation for many of its students to go on to become qualified interpreters. The use of technology could perceivably be an opportunity to expand the curriculum, if it has not been done already.

Consider Auslan through Skype in interpreting. It could be incorporated into future training. Now Skype interpreting is potentially the biggest growing area of interpreting and this will only get bigger as the National Broadband Network becomes more widely available. As an example I have used Skype interpreting for a conference where interpreters were beamed to a large screen using a data projector. The conference was in Townsville whilst the interpreters had been based in Adelaide. The cost savings in not having to fly interpreters to Townsville was immense. I have also used Skype for large meetings and one on one meetings. It has meant that when I can not get interpreters in Melbourne I have been able to access them in Sydney and Adelaide. Such interpreting requires knowledge to set up the room, establishing the audio, lighting and so on. Sometimes it can be done using mobile modems. Use of mobile modems has its limits which can include black-holes for reception, drop-outs and so on. There are a few things that one can do to lessen the chance of these things happening. Another thing that assists with Skype interpreting is the use of green and blue backgrounds to enhance visuals. All of these things could be incorporated into Auslan and Interpreter training if this has not been done already.

The cheap and ever improving access to video technology also provides opportunities to put Auslan training online. The NSW Deaf Society has already been doing this for sometime now. Skype can be used to link students to practice with each other. There are nae sayers who vehemently reject any form of online training for Auslan.  But why not? All that is needed is that we ensure that there are other parts of the course that require human contact. Never has there been a better time to incorporate technology into the delivery of Auslan training. Online training can provide options for people in rural areas who are interested in learning Auslan and becoming interpreters. The shortage of interpreters in rural areas is chronic.

What the Kangan saga has provided is an opportunity to improve, expand and bring the Auslan training into the modern age. Feedback I have heard suggests that the Kangan training has not moved with the times. There is now an opportunity to modernise it that needs to be grasped with both hands. From the ashes of what might have been Auslan and interpreting training in Victoria can be revamped and improved. Carpe Diem as they say!