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!


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.

One thought on “Erin's View ..

  1. 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.

Comments are closed.