To See or Not To See – Theatre Access – by Marnie Kerridge

Picture of William Shakespeare with quote – Unnatural deeds Do bring unnatural troubles. Infected minds To their deaf pillow will discharge their secrets.

“How should I interpret this in theatre? The word is Baroque, but it is a play on broke. ‘If it’s not baroque, don’t fix it!’”

I remember having a discussion about this with an interpreter who was doing the performance of Beauty and the Beast.  The very first interpreted theatre I saw and it was a fascinating insight in the thought, preparation and care in delivering an accessible theatre performance. I watched it in wonderment with my mother and sister. It was the start of my love affair with accessible theatre and sharing the experience with family and friends.

Did you know the United Nations Convention for the Rights of People with Disabilities  (UNCRPD) clearly outlines that, “States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to take part on an equal basis with others in cultural life..”

Fantastic! That’s my right to access the theatre ticked!

It also adds; “Persons with disabilities shall be entitled, on an equal basis with others, to recognition and support of their specific cultural and linguistic identity, including sign languages and deaf culture. “

Even better. We can pick what the appropriate mode of access is– Auslan interpreters or captions that suits our disability best.

Finally the piece de resistance – “…that persons with disabilities should have the opportunity to be actively involved in decision-making processes about policies and programs, including those directly concerning them..”

We get to be consulted. We get to be asked what we want! Captions or Auslan interpreters or both! Fan-bloody-tastic!

Right now, interest in accessible theatre has never been higher.  We have Auslan Stage Left who provide interpreters for a wide variety of theatre, from big to small budget productions, from lavish musicals to minimalist dramas, from community events to book readings. For others, there is the Theatre Captioning Studio, who provides captioning access via iPads or TV units for usually different theatre productions from Auslan Stage Left. Other theatre venues also include hearing loops as another way to provide accessibility.

The Gordon Frost Organisation brings many popular productions to Australia. Of these, Dirty Dancing, Once, Wicked are some of their shows. Wicked was Auslan interpreted in Victoria this season.  Attendance and reviews were excellent. Then, the Gordon Frost Organisation decided to provide captions for Wicked in NSW only and did not provide an interpreted performance. Confusion reigned as to the sudden changes in accessibility without any prior consultation or reasoning.

Enquiries were made about Dirty Dancing and accessibility. Gordon Frost said it would be captioned. We asked about Auslan interpreting as well. The answer was no. It would only be captioned and they were trialling it as an option.

Surely that’s okay I hear you ask? Surely captions would be better suited for everyone, I hear you say? Well, being deaf is not the same experience for everyone. Different hearing levels, different language and literacy levels and different communication levels mean that the deaf population is very diverse. Not everyone has the speed to read captions quickly. Not everyone has the required English expertise to understand and decode text and understand the different layers of meaning in a sentence. This is where Auslan interpreting comes in.

The interpreters are skilled in translating the meaning, the nuances of dialogue, and the emotion within the voices of the actors. What we cannot hear clearly, the interpreters show.  The amount of work and professionalism the interpreters put into their show is amazing. Being a part of the Les Miserables experience as a language consultant gave me a better appreciation for the work they did. Over 80 people attended that night. It was a significant success.

We must not forget that captioning provides access to many people with a hearing loss who do not use Auslan. It is equally important. I watched Love Never Dies and a Shakespearean play with captions.  People who do not use Auslan have a right to theatre access too.

However, I love interpreted theatre because there is such a big community feel about it. Many people I know who use Auslan attend along with me. Sharing it with your friends and discussing the performance in detail after enhances the theatre experience.  Ideally theatres performances will provide access through both Auslan interpreting and captioning.  Let’s not also forget hearing assistance technology like loop systems; this enhances access also.

The UNCRPD clearly says we have a choice and we have the right to be consulted. An email sent to Gordon Frost saw them reply they were providing access in a manner they saw appropriate, albeit in a different form. Where was the consultation with their Deaf and hard of hearing consumers? Where is the acknowledgement that different access needs may be required?

Unfortunately the consultation did not occur. Gordon Frost were making decisions based on their own judgment and without consultation. Sadly this means that many people who prefer access through Auslan will not get the access that they require.

We have to educate and remind decision makers that to be deafness is diverse and access is different for everyone.  We must remind decision makers of  the right to choose the access that best suits us.  Most importantly we have to remind the decision makers of their requirement to consult.

Email Gordon Frost. Email producers of other theatres. Remind them of your right to have a choice. You are the one requiring access, not them. You are the one paying your view the show, not them. There is no one size that fits all, access requirements are diverse. We must remind and demand this from our theatre producers.

 “If it’s not baroque, don’t fix it.”  Don’t let them break it!

If you wish to email your thoughts about theatre access do so to the following email addresses. Be sure to CC them all.

Listening In

Photo of Vicky Pollard, Character from the TV show, Little Britain

I have recently become a regular user of public transport. The interesting thing about public transport is that human behaviour is laid bare. If you sit back and observe, you will see human quirks in all their glory.

On a train you will have a bogan sharing space with the prim and proper. You will have a man in a Hugo Boss business suit standing next to a woman in leotards who is, no doubt, heading down-town to the gym. You will have the grimy the clean, the young and the old, the nice and the foul all sharing a confined space.  It is a zoo!

The most amazing thing about people on the train is that they are so nosy. If they are not trying to look at a person’s phone or newspaper over that persons shoulder they are constantly eavesdropping. They give the impression that they are minding their own business by focusing on their phone, listening to their music or seemingly being engrossed in their book/newspaper- but I know better.

I was watching my fellow commuters one morning. There were a group of teenagers and they were typically rowdy. They were talking about god knows what and laughing loudly. They were standing next to an elderly woman. As they chatted away you could see her furtively looking over her shoulder. Perhaps the teenagers were having a Vicky Pollard moment. Their conversation might have sounded something like this:

“Yeah but no but yeah but no but there’s this whole other fing wot you dont know nuffin about so SHARRUP! u SHURRUP! and Tasha ses ur gay but dont listen to er cos she smokes weed and she’s pregnant with Darren’s baby so SHAP u!Doesn’t matter ne way coz we got one of dese (sniffs pritt stick) Come on girls, lets gwo, dis place is RABBASH! takes a bow u like? – “

What ever they were talking about the elderly lady did not look impressed. Occasionally her eyes would widen, as if in shock. Then she would give her head a little shake and gently puff out her cheeks as if to show her disgust. Other commuters would simply roll their eyes. A few would grin. Others who didn’t want to know would reach for their music devices. You could see them adjusting the volume in the vain hope that it would shut out the mindless conversation and worthless noise coming from the youth.

Being deaf I am spared the mindless chatter of my fellow commuters. Nevertheless, I remain fascinated about what I may be missing. Just as an experiment I decided to try and lip-read peoples conversations. At the seat across the aisle a woman was in animated chatter with her friend. Of course trying to lip-read and look inconspicuous is no mean task. I gave my best impression of looking at the scenery through the window and fixed my sight firmly on the woman’s lips. She said something like:

“At this point my father in-law joined the conversation…..”

And this is as far as I got because the woman twigged on that I was looking at her. She leaned forward to her friend and began to whisper. I have no idea what she said but it was probably along the lines that some creepy old guy across the aisle staring at her.

What I really needed was Sign Guy. This is, of course, the wonderful Mark Cave.  Mr Cave has become an overnight sensation for his brilliant interpreting of the recent cyclone emergency in Queensland. Sign Guy has become an internet sensation and stories about his exuberant and expressive interpreting have been printed all over the world. I need Sign Guy to zoom in, like Superman, and eavesdrop on conversations on the train for me.

But wait, I have my own Sign Guy. I was travelling this morning with my son, Finlay. I was determined to eavesdrop on a conversation and Finlay agreed to assist me. At first he told me not to be stupid. A bit of bribery in the form of letting him use my phone to while away the boredom of the trip home was all that was needed to loosen his ears.

He sat himself directly opposite two geeky looking guys and relayed their conversation to me. It went something like this:

“They are talking about currency and gold and bronze and something like that.”

“He is talking about being more adventurous with his food and making arrangements for dinner.”

“He made some kind of joke about coming to terms with his gayness.”

“This is the worst conversation in history dad … can I have your phone now.”

You may laugh but there is a seriousness in eavesdropping for people who are deaf, particularly if they are young. For example the discussion on currency could have piqued some interest in a young person. After listening to the conversation of the two geeks they may have gone home and recounted the conversation to their parents. They might have learnt from this of the various currencies all over the world, how the exchange rate works and so on. Simply by over-hearing this simple conversation they have a pathway to learn something new and expand on new concepts.

Or they may gave gone home and mentioned the joke about coming to terms with ones gayness. This may have led to discussions about coming out. It may have led to discussions about the appropriateness of making jokes about gayness. Perhaps over dinner the topic is raised and a discussion ensues about same sex marriage. Through the simple art of over-hearing much can be learnt leading to much maturity of thought and knowledge.

But if you are deaf you miss out on this information. What may seem an inane conversation between people is in fact a wealth of knowledge to be tapped into. It’s a natural learning that occurs through everyday social interaction. It happens on the train, it happens at school, it happens waiting for the bus – IT HAPPENS EVERYWHERE. Yet if you are deaf you miss out on it. The consequences can be profound. New vocabulary is missed, new concepts are missed, diversity of opinions are missed. This can have a profound impact on the development and maturity of the young deaf person.

For me I am simply a nosy old man. But eavesdropping is a crucial part of our social learning and its impact is not well understood. So next time your deaf friend or your deaf child asks you whats going on, take the time to let them know. Just by taking the time to fill them in can help them feel included. More importantly it can be crucial for ones learning and social development – More than most people will ever know.

The Bully in Us!

imagesI have been a victim of workplace bullying. It is absolutely no fun at all. It was made worse by the fact that the perpetrators had no idea as to what they were doing. For them they were, ” … being professional.” or they were, “.. ensuring the integrity of the organisation.”  

When you are the only person in the workplace who has an obvious disability everything that you do is magnified. If I miss a meeting, because I am ill or held up, everyone knows because the interpreters make it obvious. If I do things differently, simply by doing the bulk of my communication electronically, I am challenging the culture of the organisation. It is very hard just to blend in seamlessly. I envy workers that can.

At my last work place I fought this bullying for almost 18 months. I am an advocate, I fight for the rights of people with a disability. I fight hard and I take no backward steps. I challenged the organisations professionalism. I demanded change from others because without that change I could not work. And the organisation resisted the change to the point that they were monitoring my every move including my Facebook.

They wanted to trip me up and lay blame on me. The simple solution would be to tell their staff to respond in an appropriate time frame to electronic communications so that I could do my job properly. But no, this was too hard and everything was my fault. They were sly and they were nasty. They delayed approving work. They delayed providing feedback to reports and then demanded that they be completed. They refused to respond to emails. In short they did everything possible to make it impossible for me to do my job.

In the end I broke down. The relentless pressure got to me. The constant looking over my shoulder got to me. It got to a point where I thought I was working in a fish bowl where my every move was scrutinised.

After 18 months my confidence was shot and they broke me. I was off work for two months. I am fixed now, but they broke me for a time. That was almost 12 months ago.

I have been thinking about this often recently. I have been thinking about how people become bullies without really knowing it. Not just the people at my work but even YOU the reader. Even me the WRITER. We become bullies simply through our everyday actions. And like my workplace did, we try to justify it. It took Tony Abbott to make me realise this.

“TONY ABBOTT is like the man who has stepped in what a dog left behind, yet is mystified by the rank odour of everything he approaches.”[1] Imagine arriving at work and opening your email to read this! It may well be true, but imagine if this was you. Imagine if this was just one of hundreds of things that you had to read about yourself everyday, simply because you were doing your job.

For Tony Abbott this is the reality. His workplace is Australia. He is our Prime Minister and is under immense pressure. To the best of his ability he is doing his job. Sure I do not like the way he is doing his job. I do not like the policies of his Government. I think they are grossly unfair. I do not like the “Stop the Boats” policy, I think its inhumane. I think the rich are getting off easy and the poor are carrying the can. That’s my view.

Tony Abbott has a different view. And for that he gets lampooned everyday. He will turn on the TV and he will be critisised roundly. He will open up his social media  and there will be any number of memes ridiculing him. And they are nasty, believe me they are nasty.

Here are some of the things people think are ok to print about our Prime Minister:

1) Fuck I’m a dickhead – Vote for me you stupid woman! (meme)

2) Hey girl, our broadband uses the latest technology, hold my 3.5 inch floppy and I’ll show you. (meme)

3) Tony Abbott is a misogynist, sexist, homophobic, bully, racist, a liar and is the worst PM in Australian History. (Tony Abbott Worst Prime Minister Ever Facebook page.)

4) ‘Mutant pig with human face and penis on forehead draws crowd’. My first thought was that Tony Abbott was holding another press conference. (Comment on Anti Tony Abbott propaganda.)

Just for doing his job, whether we agree with how he is doing it or not, he must put up with this every day. If you have been bullied, if you have been made ill by bullying, if you have known people to suicide because of bullying – this kind of treatment of any human being has to worry you.

And this happens not just from us the bullying public, but from people within Mr Abbott’s own Party. With this immense pressure he is expected to do his job. His every gaffe is printed and his every mistake laughed at. From here to America he is lampooned as the worst Australian Prime Minister ever. And the Australian public think it is perfectly acceptable. And shamefully I, who have been a victim of workplace bullying, have contributed to it.

And I fear for Mr Abbott. His behaviour is becoming all the more erratic. His gaffes are becoming all the more prominent. Surely we can disagree with our Prime Minister without the constant cruel and cutting comments. By all means protest, suggest alternatives, lobby hard and even vote him out. But play the man – not the ball.

Some will say that it is just the life that politicians choose to live. Others will say that he has it coming. I say we all need to take a step back and think long and hard about what we are doing. I am no fan of Mr Abbott or his Government. But whether we like it or not, he is just doing his job and trying the best he can.

It is time for us all to clean up our act.


Cross Disability..Can it Work?

crossBefore I commence with this article I must go on record to say that I have nothing but respect for the organisation that is Deaf Australia. I think it is a valuable organisation that has served the Deaf community tremendously. I have many dear friends who have served with Deaf Australia on the Board. It has achieved much and is a true cultural institution of the Deaf community.

As the primary author of The Rebuttal I have sometimes been critical of Deaf Australia and Deafness Forum. This is not because I have any ill feeling towards either organisation. It is because I feel strongly about issues and I believe it is important to discuss alternate views. Be it captions at the cinema or the lack of consultation with members,  I have spoken up often. I have been critical and I have been criticised back. That is ok. People in glass houses should not throw stones as they say. I have to be prepared to accept criticism if I dish it out.

Recently Deaf Australia and Deafness Forum were defunded. They were defunded along with a host of other disability advocacy organisations. The Government, in its wisdom, has decided decided to fund a Cross Disability Peak. The new Cross Disability Peak comprises of five organisations:

  • People with Disability Australia
  • Children with Disability Australia
  • First Peoples Disability Network Australia
  • National Ethnic Disability Alliance
  • Women with Disabilities Australia

This new Cross Disability Peak will receive up to $300 000 per organisation. They will be expected to represent all disabilities across the various portfolios. For more information click HERE.

Predictably the organisations that have been defunded have had an almighty dummy spit. They claim that Cross Disability will not work. They claim it is unrealistic to expect this organisation to represent all disabilities. They claim that the new system has effectively silenced the voice of people with a disability. I share these concerns.

However, I believe that to show that Cross Disability can not work you first must work with the new system. Protesting now, before any evidence has been gathered of the effectiveness or otherwise of the new system, is counter productive. If one is to say the new Cross Disability focus will not work they have to show that it is not working. This can only be done by making an honest and professional attempt to work with the new system.

If at the end of the day the new system is effective, then wonderful. If it is not, then at least one can say that they made a real attempt to make it work. They can present data and evidence as to why the system did not work. One cannot dismiss this new system without at first giving it a fair go. That is my view.

I have publicly stated this view on many social media discussion sites. In doing so I have come in for some abuse. I have been accused of having it in for Deaf Australia. I have almost been accused of celebrating the demise of Deaf Australia. Let me go on record, here and now. I take no pleasure in the threat to the future of Deaf Australia or any other defunded Disability Peak.

Today Deaf Australia put out a media release. Predictably it was an angry media release. It denounced the Abbott Government. It claimed that the Government had deliberately silenced the voice of Deaf Australians. They claimed that the new Cross Disability Peak simply could not hope to represent the complexity of issues associated with the Deaf community. I agree to a point  – But at this early stage, and before the new Cross Disability peak has properly commenced business, they have no evidence to back their claims.

Bizarrely, the President of Deaf Australia had this to say of the new Cross Disability Peak, “…it seems to indicate that the government thinks that the primary disability someone can have is being labeled as a woman or a child. For a deaf person, gender, race, cultural background or population group is not the issue.” This statement, to put it mildly, is ignorant to the extreme.

The new Cross Disability peak represents five groups:

  • People across disabilities.
  • Women.
  • Children.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people withe a disability.
  • People with disabilities from ethnic backgrounds.

Now the Government has in no way implied that being a woman is a disability. It has in no way implied that being a person who is of Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander descent is a disability. It has not implied that being a child is a disability. Yet Mr Wright has made this totally bizarre statement that, “The Government thinks that the primary disability someone can have is to be labelled as a women or a child.”

It did nothing of the sort. What it did say is that within these various target groups, disability exists. There are woman who have physical disabilities, there are women who are deaf, women who are blind and women who have multiple disabilities. Likewise for children. Likewise for ethnic backgrounds. What it implies is that within these groups there are specific disability issues.

This might be one of the strengths of Cross Disability. If you are woman with a disability and a victim of domestic violence there might be specific issues that impede your access to support. For example there are houses where women who are victims of domestic violence can reside and be safe. Now it is well known that women with disabilities can be vulnerable to abuse. Are these houses accessible. Do they have ramps, accessible toilets and the like. In the case of deafness when counselling is provided is interpreting funded or provided? If you have an intellectual disability and have been abused, is information available in Plain English or in formats that people with an intellectual disability can understand?

Potentially the new Cross Disability organisation can now lobby for all of these issues to the Government as one. Rather than have several organisations approaching the Government from different angles, and with different messages, there is one coherent message being provided to the Government. It can be a message that has been developed through extensive consultation across disabilities.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders people with a disability also have specific issues that need to be targeted. Displacement, ear health, isolation, remoteness, access to equipment and technology. There are women of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who have disabilities and who have been victims of domestic abuse. There are children that can benefit fro the expertise of the Association of Children with a Disability. All these issues are Cross Disability. Potentially there are many benefits for people of Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander descent who have a disability.

Across disabilities, and across specific target groups, there are many overlaps in relation to disability. A Cross Disability Group can, potentially, present a stronger and more coherent message to the Government. Rather than weakening the disability advocacy message it may, in fact, strengthen it.

That said I am skeptical that the Cross Disability Group will have the expertise to understand all the issues across the various disabilities. I am skeptical that it will be properly resourced to be able to consult across such a diverse platform that is disability. I am old school, I prefer specialisation.

But being skeptical does not allow me to be outright dismissive. I believe strongly that the new Cross Disability organisation must be given every opportunity to succeed. If it does not, and we have given it a fair crack of the whip, we will at least have the evidence to show that it is not effective.

I realise this is cold comfort for organisations like Deaf Australia who are struggling to survive. I have no idea how long Deaf Australia can survive. I have no idea how long Deafness Forum can survive. What I do know is that the anger and the dummy spits that are currently occurring among the Disability peaks that have been defunded will achieve nothing. Abusing the Abbott Government, as useless as it is, will achieve nothing. Making sensationalist claims that, ” .. the Abbott Government does not want deaf people to have a voice… “ will only alienate the deafness sector even further from the Government.

By all means document concerns. By all means articulate the skepticism of the new system. But do not dismiss it outright. The new system may surprise us all yet. I have my doubts but I am prepared to give it a go.

I hope Deaf Australia survive, they are very much needed. But if they are to survive they have to work a hell of a lot smarter than they are now.

Jo’s Story

dogI am very proud to be able to bring you this story. Through my work I have developed an extensive network, especially through Facebook. One of the friends that I have made, but never met, is Jo Russell. 

Jo is the mother of Meghan. Meghan has severe autisim. I often see Meghan referred to as the Megsta in Jo’s post. Last year Jo had a battle with severe depression. She told her story today on Facebook. She has given me permission to print her story here.

Thank you Jo. We hope by sharing this story it will help others to realise that they are not alone. I give you the wonderful Jo Russell.

So this morning I thought I’d have a chat about my battle with depression. Only because I’ve had several people message me privately, and it appears it is more common than people would think. But I promise I won’t be talking about it every day, and perseverating on the same topic, it would get tiresome and repetitive.

I first felt the sting of depression about a month after after Megan’s tenth birthday which was last year in mid March. I remember waking up with a start in the middle of the night with a panic attack, the trigger was Meg’s birthday, and the stimulus was the realisation that in spite of my best efforts, I hadn’t “fixed” Meg, her autism was still highly prevalent.

From there, the slide downhill was quite rapid. My brother Greg who is a master of solving problems, came to Kalgoorlie, and organised for me to be admitted to Perth Clinic. I booked in there in around the middle of March. I was quite confused and astounded that I had fallen prey to such severe depression, it was foreign and debilitating, and I didn’t like it at all. My little(!!) other brother (who stands over 6ft tall), Paul Rogers, arranged for me to occupy a private room, rather than sharing with someone else in a double room. Although our medical insurance didn’t cover the full cost of admission to the clinic, Paul contributed the difference.

Whilst in Perth Clinic, I attended group therapy and learned about strategies and methodologies with which to combat depression. After four weeks, I flew home to Kalgoorlie. My mother stepped into the breach of caring for Megan whilst I was hospitalised. Otherwise, I would have been stuffed.

Greg escorted me home – I was the beneficiary of significant family support, which I was very fortunate to have available to me. I felt reasonable upon discharge from the clinic, and was ready to deal with life again. I failed however, to realise how persistent and all compassing severe depression can be.

I was functioning okay and holding down a part time job up until the middle of June. But once that was ceased, I slipped into the guts of a severe depression again. I decided to see the psychiatrist, and electro-convulsive therapy was suggested. I had been on medications of about 4=5 different types, in quite large doses, with no appreciable effect.

Once again, I returned to Perth for treatment. I undertook a series of ECT, approximately 12 episodes, which is the standard number for treatment of depression. There were quite a few people ;who thought ECT was similar to how it was portrayed on One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. But these days, ECT therapy is applied much more scientifically, and is done under general anaesthetic by a trained psychiatrist. A muscle relaxant is also administered to prevent unnecessary contraction of muscles when the shock is applied.

Once I had received my “package” of twelve sessions, I flew home to Kalgoorlie, keen to remove myself from a situation where I felt as though I was a leper. Unfortunately, I may have jinxed myself with my rapid approach to ECT of get it done, and get the hell out, as I was barely home in Kalgoorlie for 4 weeks, before I was already struggling again, and seeking help.

I was admitted to Kalgoorlie Regional Hospital in September, with a noticeable slide in mood and affect. My mood was low, and my outlook bleak, very bleak in fact, and I battled to find anything uplifting or encouraging. Whilst I wasn’t in the situation of being one of those who self-harm I could absolutely understand why people do. It was as though a black scarf of depression had been cast over me, and there was absolutely no crack of light or relief in sight.

After a week in hospital I was discharged, and went home, not awfully improved to when I was initially admitted. I elected to stay at my mother’s house, as I felt uncomfortable about going back to my own home, The reason why I felt like that, I can’t really say, that was just how it was.

Naturally my mother had been caring for Megan, and then took on the task of caring for me. I ‘m not proud of that period of time, but again that was just how it was at the time. After around 4 weeks, I returned home gradually, although Megan remained in the care of my mother, as I was barely capable of caring for myself, let alone a young child with severe autism.

I struggled along, with no noticeable improvement in mood or outlook. The world looked very black and very black and very black, that’s how bad it was. My brother Greg once again came to Kalgoorlie to lend what assistance he could. Again I felt lousy, as he had come back from AMERICA, for goodness sake, so I was fairly close to completely detesting myself. In spite of his best efforts, by December I was significantly debilitated again, and another admission to hospital seemed to be the only appropriate solution.

I was admitted to Hollywood Clinic, for another series of ECT. My father accompanied me to Perth, and came in every day to see me, and take me out of the hospital environment for some light relief. My mother once again stepped in and took care of Megan. I was also aware that SP, Daniel and HMC were affected by these episodes, which seemed relentless and neverending. Some assistance had also been given to me by my friend Diane, who visited me every day, and made sure I was eating properly, and that I was at least interacting with others, and removed from the black hole I was living in, for a period of time each day.

The first two weeks of December were pretty much a blank. I was being treated with ECT again, but the current had been amped up and the placing of the electrodes had been altered, so that it was more effective. Along with ECT, I experienced a transient memory loss and some vagueness, which is a common side effect of ECT. Of course we had a break through the Christmas period, ;whch was kind of annoying, but necessary.

Again I felt guilty as the boys and my husband were left in Kalgoorlie over Christmas, and Megan came to Perth with my mother. On Christmas night Megan had a seizure, which my mother and father had to deal with, as I was still resident in the clinic. I felt even more guilty that this episode was put upon them.

It was after Christmas and into January that the ECT was recommenced. Somehow I was noticing a recognisable change in my mood. I was starting to feel more like the person I usually was. I felt more social, and more open, and got to know several other patients quite well. From that period on, I just got better and better. By the time I had got to the final session of ECT, I felt that I was living in my own skin, and that I was the person I had previously been. Thank fuck!!!

I flew home once again, and it felt excellent to be home. HMC funded my flight, and Daniel was very conscientious in asking what he could do to support me in my recovery. SP was obviously happy that his wife was the person he had known. We stared a program of transitioning Megan back home, a program which is still in place.

Tomorrow I will talk about how the road of true recovery is magnificent. I’ve covered quite a lot of space in this post, and enough is enough. I determined very early in the piece that I would be very open and transparent about my depression journey, as it feels therapeutic to share my story. But that’s it for now, time for another coffee tongue emoticon
Sayonara babies.





It’s an Institution!

deafWithin the Deaf community there are a number of cultural institutions. It is through these cultural institutions that the community gets its strength. It gives the community a sense of identity, pride, worth and also lays down some of the rules for participation. In many cases cultural institutions contribute to the economic well being of the community.

For example the Australian Deaf Games are a cultural institution. They are not just games that Deaf people participate in, they are also part of the Deaf community’s identity. They create history, social links and even contribute to the economic health of the Deaf community. A well run Australian Deaf Games that makes a profit gives the Deaf community a certain amount of financial gain. The Australian Deaf Games are crucial to the long term survival of the Australian Deaf community, both socially and financially.

Cultural institutions are not just events. They can include things like social groups, arts, theatre, family structure, religious groups, political groups and the like. Examples of such institutions include Australian Theatre of the Deaf, The John Pierce Centre and Deaf Victoria. Across these various institutions much of the strength of the Deaf community lies.

A crucial cultural institution for the Deaf community has always been its Deaf Centres, or Deaf Clubs. These Deaf Clubs are a central place where many of the cultural institutions meet and co-exist. Old timers in the Deaf community know that groups like sports groups, Deaf Senior Citizens, the Women’s Guild, the political groups and individual community members all used the Deaf Clubs as place to coordinate activities. Deaf Club’s are the hub where the social and economic benefits of the Deaf community’s cultural institutions come to the fore.

In recent times, particularly since the mid-1990s, the value of Deaf Clubs as the hub of the community has been forgotten and in some cases lost. There are many reasons for this. One of them has been technology. In the past Deaf community members did not have the benefit of email, Skype, SMS, TTYs and the like to communicate.

As technology developed it provided Deaf community members with a means to be able to arrange things differently. Whereas in the past they would all meet at the Deaf Club and move on from there they could now arrange to meet directly at any number of places. A quick SMS to meet at a café or the movies has meant that the need to meet somewhere centrally like the Deaf Club was no longer needed.

The bigger threat has always been the economic one. Deaf Club’s usually existed within Deaf Society’s. Increasingly Deaf Society’s have faced financial challenges. These financial challenges have led to the sale of assets and the purchasing or leasing of more financially viable business centres. As Deaf Society’s made the decision to move to premises that were more financially viable it usually meant that Deaf Clubs closed or were neglected.

The rot started with NSW and the sale of the Stanmore Deaf Society. Stanmore had a wonderfully vibrant Deaf Centre. At one stage it actually had a lawn bowls green out the back. I worked there for a time and made good use of the squash court down stairs. In the 90’s financing the Stanmore site became too much of a strain. It was sold and the profits were used to set up the Deaf Society of NSW at the current Parramatta premises.

Unfortunately planning for the survival of the Deaf Club in NSW was inadequate. The Deaf community lost its central and most important cultural institution. This led to the NSW Deaf community becoming increasingly fragmented and disjointed. It has taken many years for the NSW Deaf community to recover and it still has a long way to go.

In Victoria the old Jolimont property was sold. With it went the Jolimont Deaf Club. There was some thought given to the needs of a Deaf community meeting centre. This is probably why the John Lovett meeting area was established. However, to get access to the meeting area the Deaf community were competing with many other groups. Accessing the centre after 6pm was a nightmare. The lift security prevents any access after 6pm. This means someone must arrive before 6pm. As people arrive they SMS each other and someone has to go down and let people in. It’s cumbersome and often unworkable.  The demise of the Jolimont Deaf Club is very much lamented.

In South Australia the Deaf community had an acrimonious battle with Deaf Can Do to prevent the sale of its Community hub at 262 South Terrace. They lost. Deaf Can Do have made provisions for the establishment of a Deaf Club at Modbury. It is not ideal. It is not very central nor is it that accessible to public transport but at least it is a Deaf Club. However, one wonders if Deaf Can Do missed a trick by not allocating a proportion of the profits of the sale of the grand old 262 building to the Deaf community. This would have allowed the Deaf community to become independent of Deaf Can Do and potentially financially secure.

Make no mistake Deaf Clubs are the heart of the Deaf community. Deaf clubs promote and sustain many of the community’s vital cultural institutions. This is why it is such great news that Vicdeaf and Deaf Children Australia have joined forces to employ four researchers. The researchers will gather information about successful Deaf centres and community centres all over the world. The research will be used to consult with the Deaf community to hopefully plan for the establishment of a strong and viable Deaf Club. To learn more about the research project watch the video.

We can dream. Let’s imagine a Deaf Club that is not just a meeting spot but it is also a hub of activity. Perhaps there will be café within that is managed entirely by Deaf people. Perhaps there will be regular community activities such as yoga and self-help groups that are run from the centre. Imagine if one of the several Deaf hairdressers in Victoria actually set up a hairdresser/beautician salon at the Deaf Club to pamper both Deaf and hearing people. Maybe there could be a business hub where consumers can locate any number of skilled Deaf professionals like builders, accountants, web designers, computer technicians and the like.

Let’s dream. The Deaf community needs a strong and vibrant Deaf Club. This is the lesson that we have all learnt from the 90s and early 2000s. The strength of the Deaf community lies from it having a strong Deaf Club. It is only right that profits made from the sale of assets from our Deaf Societies, including Deaf Children Australia, be directed back to the Deaf community. After all, these organisations were largely established on the backs and hard work of our Deaf pioneers.

Congratulations to Vicdeaf and Deaf Children Australia for establishing the research project into Deaf Centres. I, for one, cannot wait to read its findings.