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 The interpreter suggested that the Kangan course had become outdated.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!

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23 thoughts on “The Kangan Saga – Making a Negative into a Positive.

  1. What follows is a selection of comments that have been posted to me by people fearing to speak out … it is a rather sad indication as to what is happening in the Deaf sector when people fear debating any issue.

  2. But you have dared to spoke what some of us were thinking….. That it’s not a bad thing that happened….as kangan is way too outdated…..it’s time to shake things up. Many kangan students come to work ….. I have seen them frightened of… using the same signs. Kangan really strikes fear in their students. I mentioned this to an experienced interpreter and she was absolutely stunned and almost had tears in her eyes. She said ” oh I’m sorry but I am so shocked to hear you to say that cos no one not a one deaf person has ever said anything like that or criticized kangan batman… I couldnt say anything….. Now you said it……I don’t feel alone….” This conversation happened only days before the kangan saga started.
    I am shocked at their outdated resources…there were even spelling errors…such as family signs…..! A couple of auslan teachers and I have discussed what we would have done if we worked there full time etc. I don’t know if this helps you but anyway 🙂
    Thanks for the article
    ..

  3. Interesting article. I was going to post on the rebuttal but I didn’t want to target KI’s negativity or betray the interpreter’s trust. A couple of weeks ago I had a discussion with the interpreter who attended KI and RMIT. The interpreter …reckons Auslan courses were cut at KI based on quality of service. The interpreter said KI’s quality of service is on downslide and thought it may be better off if RMIT or Deakin or La Trobe taking full control to teach students Auslan/culture/interpreting etc etc. The interpreter said don’t take me wrong. It is great to get the media’s and government’s attentions on auslan and interpreters demand in deaf community. It was an interesting conversation.
    If you want to publish this, it is ok but please do without my name.

  4. Dont really read The Rebuttal closely, mostly just skim it. But your entry on the Kangan course was rivetting. Found myself nodding a lot while reading it. Some really good points and a really good insight of the issues from the coal face … well written and well said. Will be surprised if you dont cop flack for it though. But you have broad shoulders I am sure you can handle it .. LOL

  5. Love that you have made the elephant in the room visible… I too am fearful of being negative about Kangan and the RMIT interpreting course. I have met so many people who have been instructed in my opinion incorrectly about what signs can/can’t be used.. Especially when the deaf community uses a variety of signs (interpreters need to know these signs) Some graduates i have met have been traumatized by the teaching methodology at both institutions…I wonder what independent review mechanisms are in place for both Kangan and RMIT? There is no ability to screen students suitability to become interpreters at Kangan as its a language course and I’m guessing RMIT take people from Kangan as the feeder institution when these students may not have the additional skills required to become an interpreter Please don’t publish my name cheers

  6. Some excellent food for thought Gaz. I am in two minds about the situation with Kangan TAFE, one is that it is a shame that this is happening and it is great news that so many people are coming together to resolve the situation. My other mind says “So what”! In the UK, Colleges (like TAFES in Oz) now generally do not provide advanced-level BSL or Interpreting courses, these are delivered by the Universities or private institutions such as Signamic (www.signamic.co.uk).

    The colleges gave up advanced-level BSL training and assessment ages ago as it was not cost effective for them. The biggest bar to running a quality advanced-level BSL course was ensuring that there was an employed and competent Administrator or Teacher/Assessor, and money from course fees is often insufficient to employ either, or better still, both. It is very difficult running an advanced-level BSL course delivered entirely by freelancers and where there is no one with specialist knowledge about the programme on the payroll.

    This is why private training instructions have taken off in the UK, and all sorts of organisations are now registered as providers of qualification courses in advanced-level BSL or Interpreting. Some are deaf service providers, some are specialist training companies, and yet others are Interpreting agencies.

    A trawl of the Signature website (www.signature.org.uk) shows that around London, there is only one traditional multi-discipline educational institution offering Level 3 BSL courses, and that is the City Lit, all the others are anything but.

    So I guess that it is time to move away from the previous model of delivering specialist qualifications to the open market.

    • You may well be right Paul .. But if Auslan training is to survive in Vic, accredited and quality training, people are gonna have to think outside of the square and let go of the old.

  7. Why would Vicdeaf announce any involvement in delivering a course when nothing was confirmed nor prepared? Talk about putting the cart before the horse. It’s very difficult to invent criticism when none is due. But alas this is “The Rebuttal” and of course the Deaf organsations MUST bear some of the brunt, musn’t they?

    And yes, KI’s method of instruction and “immersion” had not changed over 20 years. The Deaf community has. Time to get with the program.

  8. Well … We had the mysterious incident was that NSW came out and said that the Minister had not been in touch with them after his initial announcement that the Deaf Society of NSW were in egotiations with the Government to fill the void when Kangan closes. An hour later the Vicdeaf media announcement confirmed that they were in fact in negotiations and the Deaf Society of NSW were involved. and from there it became mysterious as to what was going on to the point we are still not sure.

    Secondly I strongly feel it would have been a courtesy to let at least Kangan know what was happening from the start so that they could work in partnership to ensure gaps were met. Clearly the negotiations, if the Minister is to be believed, had been happening for quite sometime. I’m one for transparency, just say at the start what you are doing and why and then update progress. So as I said the string of media releases that transpired added an air of mystery to it. You are naive to think that nothing had been prepared or ready .. It seems pretty clear negotiations were well advanced.

    That said the article suggested that Vicdeaf involvement could, infact, be a good thing. Or did this go over your head in your rush to the defence?

  9. Thanks for this post. It raises some important issues, but these issues apply to the whole Auslan teaching and interpreter training sector, not just Kangan. I have a lot of respect for most Auslan teachers. Many of them do their best, despite having very little training, few resources, and few opportunities for professional development. To my knowledge, only the Deaf Education Network in Sydney and La Trobe University in Melbourne have ever provided any training courses for Auslan teachers, but both courses were developed in the 1990s and neither were equivalent to the training that is available to other language teachers. There is a clear need for ongoing professional development, and to encourage and support deaf people who wish to study for degrees in teaching. Without these opportunities, it is not surprising that the field has not advanced nor kept up with the times. With so little research to support teaching, teachers are hungry for information. Often, in the absence of hard facts about Auslan usage, teachers fall back on their own intuitions about what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’. And I don’t think the UK necessarily provides an alternative model that is a great deal better – very few sign language teachers in the UK have university degrees either, there are also very few teaching resources that reflect all the variation in BSL (online dictionaries, for example, to favour particular signs over others, often reflecting regional or age-related biases), and some of the same narrow focus on teaching ‘right’ versus ‘wrong’ signs occurs there too. We need to support more research into the linguistics of Auslan and the second language teaching of Auslan (there has not been, to my knowledge, a single project ever looking into how Auslan is taught in the classroom), and more work on translating these findings into classroom practice.

    • Thanks for this Adam .. But clearly from what you are saying there are many issues that we need to address and this Kangan Saga provides an opportunity to explore them. Might not get it perfect given that lack of funds at this time but we can improve on it. perhaps it was the kick up the bum we all needed.

      • CORRECTION: I do know of one research project on teaching Auslan – Donovan Cresdee’s PhD thesis looked at two different approaches to teaching one aspect of Auslan grammar. My point still stands, however, that there is clearly a need for much more work on teaching Auslan as a LOTE.

  10. I have read the postings above with great interest. Like any service provided to the public, there will be fans and also those who see opportunities for improvement. Both perspectives are worthy of consideration. Readers of The Rebuttal may be interested to learn that Kangan’s curriculum changes every 5 years. The last amendment was accredited in 2010 and had significant input from Deaf Society of NSW Auslan staff.

    They may also be interested to learn that Kangan has, in the past, conducted several National and State projects researching the use of online learning and distance learning via broadband video conferencing. Kangan has conducted two courses using video-conferencing; one to Ballarat andf the other to Bendigo. Whilst the costs were funded by project-funding, there was no problem getting a group of students together. When these considerable costs were passed on to students in the form of a course fee, there were insufficient applicants to run the course.

    Currently, Deaf History is one of only 6 pilot courses being offered to Kangan students this semester using the new Moodle platform. As such, the Auslan & Deaf Studies Centre is viewed as innovators and leaders in using this platform. Kangan has also been trialling the viability of uploading Auslan video material for training purposes. The introduction of ADSL2+ and the new NBN will finally make this a viable solution for flexible online delivery. However, as Adam Schembri correctly pointed out, there is a lack of research guiding us in the development of effective training strategies, let alone online training programs. Similarly, there is virtually no good-quality Auslan training material appropriate for online training. The creation of these materials would, no doubt, require sufficient funding and time to produce.

    It is my sincere wish to see these improvements come about over the coming months. This can only be done in consultation with those stakeholders who have the appropriate experience, training and vision, as well as the provision of sufficient Govt funding. It is one of the few significant benefits that may result from the current Auslan skake-up.

    I guess what I find most disturbing about some of the comments above is that fact that none were directed to Kangan. Had these anonymous individuals put the same amount of energy into providing constructive feeedback and opening a dialogue with Kangan staff, just imagine what we could have achieved by now. Unfortunately idle gossip yields very few positive results.

  11. A few comments on this post.
    As written about elsewhere, I attended the Auslan Diploma course many years ago now. I wanted to learn enough Auslan to both work and be able to use Auslan socially. After I graduated I was on the other side of the fence using Kangan trained interpreters to make my way in the world. I notice above that some of the people who have posted take issue either with students not being taught the “right” signs or graduates being nervous about using the “wrong” signs when they are working. Yes, the Kangan course were strict, but they were strict in support of the Deaf community and producing graduates who had the right attitudes and skills.
    I have found the standard of interpreting out in the real world extremely high. I’m amazed at the versatility of all the interpreters I have worked with . I can barely believe how they can go all day interpreting complex information into a form that even a novice like me can make sense of ! I was joking on Facebook recently about attending an evening on raising chickens and being ultra impressed that my two interpreters were so adept at explaining the intricacies of chicken keeping that I now know exactly how all that chickenshit is to be removed from the mesh underlay in a way that minimises the smell and labour involved. I use interpreters both young and old and they are uniformly good. At Kangan a third of the students in my group were mature age students.

    Sure there are probably ways interpreting training can be improved- it is a rapidly changing landscape. However I don’t think we should forget the circumstances that led to the closing of Kangan – it wasn’t closed because someone evaluated the course and found it lacking. It was closed for reasons right outside the control of the Auslan Diploma course staff. Luckily, from what I’ve heard, a lot of good people are working together to try and make the best out of a bad situation so that is good. However it doesn’t take away from the fact that really good, dedicated professionals have been hurt by this, along with the current students and I think their feelings need to be respected.

    Also, from memory, the slogan that The Rebuttal uses is something like “Accountability Breeds Responsibility”. We all communicate differently and say different things depending on if we are commenting in private or out in public. Writing in public like this is pretty scary because adding your name to the things you write makes you accountable. On the other hand I also think it should be necessary because having to put your hand up and own your words is also the best hope of ensuring fair comment.

    • In reply to both Julian and Karen. Thank you very much for your posts its very much appreciated. Particularly Julian for his very forthright clarification.

      In writing the original article I sincerely wanted to point out that despite all the heartache there could be positives to come from the whole saga. I also was conscious that people were talking about the other side of the coin and felt it would be useful to bring these issues out in the open. I had no idea when first writing this that people were actually fearing speaking out for fear of reprisals.

      Now what was stated in the article was straight forward .. we had a chance to really grab the Auslan course by the scruff of the neck and make it as strong as it can be. Then suddenly people were writing in and stating that they had felt the same but feared reprisals from the sector if their names were used. They asked that their pieces be published but without names.

      This shocked me because I genuinely felt it was a gentle piece that was trying to see light at the end of the tunnel with a little bit of controversy thrown in to create debate. The depth of the feeling and the fear really shocked me.

      As readers will know I have never been shy to put a case forward, for better or for worse. But when people fear that they can not speak out because of a perceived backlash it’s sad. It’s sad also when people are texting and emailing others blaming and making accusations. That concerns me. I honestly believe this is better in the open than as a festering sore.

      So hopefully from all of this we can put an end to victimisation and create an environment that is conductive to transparent debate. Mostly I hope that Kangan can continue and through using this constructive debate a strong and relevant Auslan course can be developed to take us into the future.

      I reiterate the key messages of the article … lets use this crisis to make a really strong and relevant curriculum .. People have lost their jobs, tears have been shed and clearly there is a lot of bad blood that needs to be addressed.

  12. 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.

  13. Erin points taken …. particularly on the sensitivity of the issue.

    But a few rebuts I feel are necessary:

    1) People fear speaking out. I really cannot understand this. What was said was relatively constructive. Simply the course can be improved and brought into the modern age … No one was slandered, no one said Kangan was bad, no one said they didnt want it .. Just that it could be made better. Emotion aside, the reaction and defensiveness to this baffles me.
    2) On the subject of student intake. it is not a critisism of Kangan in anyway. It is a critisism of the course fee structure. This is implemented by the Government. It precludes people for the various reasons stated. Diversity is important. Young students are equally as important as older ones but it would be healthy to redress the imbalance. You and I are now old 😀 we should understand that. There is absolutely no critsism of Kangan in this. It is an environment that the course fee structure has created. That said all you said about young and old and each having their own value and contribution I totally agree with but fear you misinterpreted what was written about the course fee structure.
    3) In the last month I used no less than 14 interpreters. More than half would have had a view. None of it anything but supportive except that they felt there were elements to make the course stronger and more relevant.
    4) And most importantly people fear putting forward what I consider very constructive view points but fear a backlash … This to me was most unexpected and concerning. Julian has stated that he wishes people had gone to him, but for whatever reason they felt scared to air their viewss and their names. I know Julian and he certainly isnt someone to fear. And I dont think not wanting ones name published is cowardly, I think its a real worry that such an environment where people fear using their name exists. This is something we really need to look at … I certainly did not intend or want to hurt anyone but in publishing the comments I saw only a festering and destructive sore that kept underwraps was not healthy. Given this I took the view the comments should be out there. I accept after reading what you have said that this was very hurtful for some to read BUT again how has this environment of fear been created? The community as a whole would do well to examine this.
    5) And finally, what you have done, expressing your view, is something I encourage others to do. Certainly I can learn from it and will. The Rebuttal is just one view point other view points are part of its success. I am certainly glad all these view points are in the open I do not think its healthy saying one thing in public and another in private. Honesty such as yours is the way to go and very much needed. more importantly, from my view point very much appreciated.

    No pain to anyone was intended though I accept the comments from people would have hit like barbs. I can only ask the question again …Why are people who I consider decent human beings so frightened to speak out? Why are simple and constuctive comments aimed at making a better system upsetting so many people? To me we need to really address this.

    But again thank you for your comments and I encourage others who feel the same way as you to air their views as you have done. Lets not target interpreters and others but rather focus on the issues. This certainly opened a can of worms in a way I had never expected.

    Finally, finally .. I would like to put your post as a lead article so that people who log into the Rebuttal read it as the first thing that they look at. I think it is very important. I will also cut and paste my Rebut. let me know if this is ok.

  14. Thanks for the clarification Gary. However I am sceptical of the picture you paint of people being scared to speak out because of reprisals. I don’t mix in the Deaf community to a huge degree but it is hard to equate this image with my own experiences of the Deaf community, in fact any community. I have not seen difference in social confidence levels between hearing and deaf people. What reprisals ? From what I have seen there is no central group or power base – as far as I can see we are all individuals doing our best and making mistakes sometimes, but drawn together because we have common interests.

    I think you are getting muddled about the social boundaries that exist in every community in which some things are said in public and some only in private. If you break the boundaries people don’t like it but that doesn’t mean they are bullies – it just means you have overstepped the mark and they are letting you know.

    I was at a forum recently and the presenter started talking about “shame”. She was talking about how it is the fear of shame that stops us doing or saying things and that it is sometimes a good thing because it keeps us from saying and doing things that hurt and damage others. My point in my earlier email is that if people want to share their views, fair enough but they should put their own name to them. If they are ashamed to do it, I would question whether The Rebuttal should be doing it for them and sharing views hurtful to others.

    Last night my sister, who lives in NZ and is Deaf, posted a news item about how the NZ government has withdrawn access to legal services for Deaf people there to save money. This means no interpreters. Today there was more – the govt have refused to pay for interpreting costs for their Deaf MP Mojo Mathers, leaving it to the Greens to do it themselves so she can participate. for us both the biggest shock of becoming deaf has been the neverending need to self advocate just to hold onto basic human rights that others take for granted. These infringements of human rights – especially OUR rights under the CRPD, are being constantly breached.

    As also noted on the ever useful Facebook too, there aren’t that many people using Auslan now – from memory under 7000 nationally, though far greater if you factor in the people we use it with. If deaf people don’t stick together we are sunk. Our voices and our energies need to be directed outwards into that environment that continually looks to cutting access for deaf people and people with disabilities. For that reason too I question that you would even be looking at Kangan at this time.

  15. For whatever reason Karen they have a personal and professional FEAR not shame. You can deny it, say its rubbish, poo poo over the cracks – But to my my mind this fear REALLY exists. Whether its shame, shyness, intimidation, lack of confidence, position … or a combination of all of these things .. It exists. And because it exists it is leading to exclusion.

    Te problem in this case is that noone overstepped the mark. they were just offering simple and constructive feedback … Update the curriculum, divesify the students, be more flexible in the choice of signs allowed .. They were just simple viewpoints but they could not do so with their name to it … The reason? Social bounderies? Shame? I dont think so.
    In a perfect world they should put their names to it. They cannot? Why are they so intimidated? Because they feel ashamed to feel that way? In this case what have they to feel ashamed about? I think it goes a lot deeper. They certainly were not ashamed from my perspective – they were scared. Which is a different thing altogether.
    You are right if we dont stick together we are sunk. We are equally sunk if we deny a voice to sections of the community who have a different view to ours. In fact we exclude them. I for one will not do that … Hence we air all views on here ..There is much to examine in this saga and the answers are not simple.

  16. Well just one last comment from me on this in relation to point 4 of your reply to Erin and in the response to me.

    By shame I mean the fear of being judged by others because our thoughts are half baked. Not all fear is bad- sometimes fear is a good guide to you that you are about to do something you shouldn’t. I’m not surprised people wouldn’t want to put their name to something that is basically kicking someone who is already down.

    I think The Rebuttal has a double standard on this one. Deaf organisations are often criticised on here on the grounds that The Rebuttal is making them accountable to deaf people so they are responsible, yet you are still willing to publish private gossip from nameless individuals and say that they don’t need to be accountable, while using their words to back up your point of view.

    The whole thing reminds me of that incident in the UK hacking scandal in which one of the editors was taken to task over hacking the phone of a girl who had been abducted and killed. Because police were monitoring the phone they picked up that someone was accessing voicemail on that phone and the girl’s Mum started hoping that it meant that somehow, her girl may still be alive. Anyway when the editor was questioned he just slung off at the effect of his actions saying that the only people who require privacy are paedophiles. To his mind he was a crusader looking for information to share with the public over what he considered to be a matter of public interest. To the law he was in gross breach of privacy law and may even be in jail now. To the girl’s mum he was a person who got her hopes up of seeing her daughter again , only to have those hopes shattered when the truth came out. In other words the truth is relative. All of us seek it but I think it is important when sharing information to also consider boundaries over what should be shared or not.

    • But is it gossip Karen? If someone says they think something can be made better is that gossip? That they have a perception of something that might not be a popular opiion is that gossip? If someone outlines their personal experience of things, isthat gossip? I personally dont think anyone has been kicked when they are down. The people that have commented genuinely want a stronger Auslan instruction program. I get what you are saying. I accept responsibility for all that is published. Including yours and Erin’s oint of view .. Yours and Erin’s comments dont leave me in to flattering a light:-D … But I encourage such commentary.

      Rather than double standards perhaps I am leading the way by opening myself up to scrutiny and allowing discussion on all points of view .. Another way to look at it perhaps?

      I just wish everyone could feel free to comment as you and Erin have done without fear.

  17. Sigh, it is very hard for me to resist a question mark, let alone 4 in a row so here I am again. 😉 Yes it is gossip. Gossip is “casual conversation or unsubstantiated reports about other people”, according to my ancient copy of the Concise Oxford Dictionary.
    For example –
    The Kangan course :
    – way too outdated
    -quality of service on downslide
    -strikes fear into the heart of its students
    -Auslan courses cut due to quality of service
    -no ability to screen student’s suitability to become interpreters
    -method of instruction and “immersion” has not changed in 20 years – the Deaf community has.
    -resources are outdated with spelling errors.

    The Students :
    -come to work frightened
    -instructed incorrectly
    -traumatized by teaching methodology

    How is this constructive ? Compare it to the matter of fact content from those who did write their names and clearly did a bit of checking before they commented. If these people had had to put their names to this stuff they would probably have either decided it wasn’t something they wanted to take responsibility for, or they would have made sure it was accurate. Look at how much of it Julian refuted yet, had he not seen this, that information was out there unchallenged and shaping people’s thinking. So yes, that is my point.
    All kudos to you though Gary for continuing to print what is indeed some pretty strong disagreement – I’m not sure I am so good at taking flak so good on you for that.

    • Oh karen trust you to be literal 😀 .. I concede some might be seen as gossip, some might ne more along the lines of opinion 😀

      Now bottom line is these issues are out there being discussed in the community, silently. They could be fact, they could be gossip, they may have really happened. I dont think they were aired in a malicious way … They were real concerns aired by decent people. If not addressed nothing could move, they are now in the open … Suggestion with the trauma is that there was an autocratic way of teaching that lacked flexibility … read into it what you will .. either way worth considering … An area of concern that people wanted others to consider.

      Now the real issue as a friend just told me half an hour ago, and this is why we must get good strong Auslan instruction. If there are flaws in the course that can be addressed, if its not open to constructive feedback, if people fear offering constructive feedback, if teaching is rigid … etc .. It needs to be addressed. We all agree we need kangan now lets focus on how we can make it better so that future generations, particularly kids that need language to function, learn and evelop relationships – Have something that is relevant, flexible and meets their needs.

      If people want to brush the issues the nameless people have raised under the carpet because they think its “gossip” well i think thats silly and dangerous. There is rarely smoke without fire as they say …. As I say look seriously at the issues … So that the next generation of Kangan tuition is of the highest quality possible and is an institute that people feel they can contribute without fearing their professional career will be jeopardised.

      Just a minute ago I received this text message .. Make of it what you will:

      “I would never put my name to a negative comment about the KI course. That doesnt make me a coward, that means i am protecting myself and my ability to work.

      I dont think there was anything overly negative about the article. I think it highlighted some inadequacies but on the whole suggested changes that would be positive.

      It sucks that people, myself included, would be too scared to speak out about a course, and group of teachers. However it does show that you were pretty much spot on and that there are people out there that agree with you.”

      All this means is we need to look into this and work out why people feel this way. I get it that decent people, very decent people, like Julian and Erin having read this would be angry … But its not just one it is many. I say again, we ignore it at our peril because if we do we will make the same mistakes over and over again.

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