A Success Story!


drisanaAs the prime author and editor of The Rebuttal I often get approached to write things, usually critical things. The people that approach me range from CEOs of deaf organisations, Deaf and disability advocates, teachers of the deaf or simply individuals that feel strongly about something. They ask me to write about organisations, about services, interpreting, caption cinema, Deaf education and the like. Sometimes they ask me for help to write an article because they are not confident in their writing and I am usually happy to help. However, sometimes they ask me to write because they do not want to cop the bullets themselves, they would rather I cop them. This is where I draw the line.

I have been stewing about writing this article for sometime. I have decided to put these thoughts to paper because what follows is a story of success and it is a lesson to us all.

In November last year three people from around Australia contacted me. They wanted me to write something in the Rebuttal about the nomination for Young Australian of The Year, Drisana Levitzke-Gray. I don’t know Ms Levitzke-Gray personally. Ms Levitzke-Gray comes from a Deaf family that goes back many generations. I have had the pleasure of meeting several members of Ms Levitzke-Gray’s family over the years. They are a strong Deaf family who advocate passionately for Deaf rights. It is no surprise that Ms Levitzke-Gray is following in their footsteps.

The three people that contacted me wanted me to write something along the lines that Ms Levitzke-Gray was not deserving of her nomination for Young Australian of the Year. The gist of their argument was that she had not done enough and that there were others that were more deserving. They wanted to feed me information to write an article that would paint Ms Levitzke- Gray’s nomination in a negative light.

I refused. I simply told these people that if they felt strongly enough about the issue then they should write it themselves. I urged caution, however. I said that what they were suggesting would look like sour grapes and would most likely backfire. Mostly I urged them to think of the positive publicity that would be created as the result of Ms Levitzke-Gray’s nomination. Thankfully nothing was written and Ms Levitzke-Gray made history by becoming the first ever Deaf person to win the Young Australian of the Year award. What an enormous success she has made of it.

The sad thing is that even after Ms Levitzke-Gray had won the Young Australian of the Year Award the muttering in the background continued.  The Deaf community is small and I am pretty sure that much of the negative talk would have got back to Ms Levitzke-Gray. She did what all great people do, she ignored the naysayers and simply got on with the job. I have to say Ms Levitzke-Gray has been the best thing to happen for the Deaf community for many years.

First and foremost Ms Levitzke Gray has used her success to promote the rights of the Deaf community at every turn. She has been particularly vocal about the need to officially recognise Auslan. Wherever she goes she is at ease, confident, with beaming smile and exceedingly articulate. She has the knack of being able to make the complex simple. Her passion shines through.

Ms Levitzke-Gray has been everywhere. She has met Prime Ministers and opposition leaders, royalty and politicians. She has met celebrities and every day people. Everywhere she goes she speaks passionately about the Deaf community, Auslan and the right for people who are Deaf to be able to access every facet of Australian life. She has become a media personality and when she talks, people listen.

Recently she was  photographed with Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. Perhaps for the first time ever a Prime Minister has officially supported Auslan because of that meeting. In fact he officially commented on his Facebook Page. See what he had to say here – Malcolm Turnbull Facebook

I just want to publicly thank Ms Levitzke-Gray for all the work that she has done for us this year. She has been tireless in her endeavors and never missed a beat to put the needs of the Deaf community, particularly Auslan, out there in the public domain. She has been an absolute breath of fresh air from the dowdy and boring old farts, including me, that have been advocating for the Deaf community all these years.

Well done and thank you Drisana, you are a credit to yourself and your family. As for the doubters and naysayers, well she certainly showed you, DIDN’T SHE???

 

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “A Success Story!

  1. I feel Drisana has under-performed in her role. She has certainly brought a lot of attention and awareness to Auslan, but that’s it. In my opinion, she has not used her powerful position to pave the path for tangible change in society. As such, I feel like she didn’t use her powerful platform to its fullest potential, which is why I am disappointed. Perhaps I was expecting too much or perhaps I’ve overestimated the difficulties involved in being an advocate at a national level.

    All year she espoused the exact same statement in her media appearances, tweets and articles – “it is the human right for Deaf children to have access to Auslan from birth”. Politicians nod their heads in agreement. They shake hands, maybe share a joke. And voila, that’s the end of it. So what if it is the human right for deaf children to have access to Auslan from birth? You can’t really make a statement and then not back it up with data or evidence, or suggest solutions or tools to facilitate the change you want to see.

    This is what she failed to do, answer the “so what?” question. It leaves people hanging, unable to do anything about it because all they were provided with is a statement. Yes, starting the conversation is very important and she has achieved that, but it needs to move forward to translate into tangible actions and she was in a powerful position to do that. Politicians, and Government more broadly, do not respond to one-off statements. They need to see evidence of its potential benefit to Australian society. They need to see what the change would look like. How do we make Auslan a mainstream language? Would we need to amend existing policy or introduce new policy? Does Australia’s existing policy adhere to current international best practice regarding sign language (ie. in this case it would be the CRPD)? Has other countries adopted a sign language as a mainstream language and if so, what does it look like? How did they do it and is it demonstrating benefits for everyone? The discussion should’ve focused on these questions, I feel.

    Drisana has also failed to engage in evidence, data or research. Even Malcolm Turnbull used data to provide a neutral insight into the Deaf community when describing his meeting with Drisana on his Facebook! Data on the deaf community is readily accessible. In my demographic analysis on the deaf community in Australia using 2011 Census data, only 1.9% of the deaf/HoH population in Australia aged under 25 years used Auslan as their primary language at home (2,910 out of 151,100 deaf people aged under 25 years). This statistic could be used for advocacy purposes to demonstrate how challenging it is for deaf children/adolescents to access Auslan and how vital it is to increase this statistic. As such, Drisana needs to move beyond from just saying the statement to actually advocating change based on data, evidence and research, rather than relying on only her opinions to support her only statement. Unfortunately, it appears she has a poor grasp on understanding and utilising data and evidence as demonstrated via her public FB page (as she regularly shares non-academic research that could be construed as propaganda or one-sided opinion articles that do not engage with scientific evidence).

    Rosie Batty, in her role as Australian of the Year, is a great example for advocating for tangible change. She has a good grasp of policy and legislation, how government works, and how to engage with different groups in the community to spread her message and advocate for change. You don’t see Rosie in every media appearance saying “domestic violence is bad, we need to do something about it” all the time. She actually brings out statistics and data, talks about existing legislation and policy and makes suggestions on what could be changed in order to improve the situation. She was key in the establishment of a royal commission into family violence, she deputy-chaired the Government’s Advisory Panel on Reducing Violence against Women and their Children, and her efforts has most certainly contributed to the Government making domestic violence a national priority, which includes a $100 million package of measures to address the issue. Rosie used the platform of being Australian of the Year by advocating for tangible change and ensuring delivery of actions, and boy has she done it.

    Drisana has certainly spread awareness and understanding of Auslan in the wider community, which I am grateful for. But when her obligations as Young Australian of the Year ends next month, will wider society continue to care about Auslan? Probably not because there has not been any tangible tools put in place to ensure Auslan remains in the spotlight. Once Drisana’s media appearances die down, so will the spotlight on Auslan.

    I write too much. Maybe I should start a blog.

  2. I feel Drisana has under-performed in her role. She has certainly brought a lot of attention and awareness to Auslan, but that’s it. In my opinion, she has not used her powerful position to pave the path for tangible change in society. As such, I feel like she didn’t use her powerful platform to its fullest potential, which is why I am disappointed. Perhaps I was expecting too much or perhaps I’ve overestimated the difficulties involved in being an advocate at a national level.

    All year she espoused the exact same statement in her media appearances, tweets and articles – “it is the human right for Deaf children to have access to Auslan from birth”. Politicians nod their heads in agreement. They shake hands, maybe share a joke. And voila, that’s the end of it. So what if it is the human right for deaf children to have access to Auslan from birth? You can’t really make a statement and then not back it up with data or evidence, or suggest solutions or tools to facilitate the change you want to see.

    This is what she failed to do, answer the “so what?” question. It leaves people hanging, unable to do anything about it because all they were provided with is a statement. Yes, starting the conversation is very important and she has achieved that, but it needs to move forward to translate into tangible actions and she was in a powerful position to do that. Politicians, and Government more broadly, do not respond to one-off statements. They need to see evidence of its potential benefit to Australian society. They need to see what the change would look like. How do we make Auslan a mainstream language? Would we need to amend existing policy or introduce new policy? Does Australia’s existing policy adhere to current international best practice regarding sign language (ie. in this case it would be the CRPD)? Has other countries adopted a sign language as a mainstream language and if so, what does it look like? How did they do it and is it demonstrating benefits for everyone? The discussion should’ve focused on these questions, I feel.

    Drisana has also failed to engage in evidence, data or research. Even Malcolm Turnbull used data to provide a neutral insight into the Deaf community when describing his meeting with Drisana on his Facebook! Data on the deaf community is readily accessible. In my demographic analysis on the deaf community in Australia using 2011 Census data, only 1.9% of the deaf/HoH population in Australia aged under 25 years used Auslan as their primary language at home (2,910 out of 151,100 deaf people aged under 25 years). This statistic could be used for advocacy purposes to demonstrate how challenging it is for deaf children/adolescents to access Auslan and how vital it is to increase this statistic. As such, Drisana needs to move beyond from just saying the statement to actually advocating change based on data, evidence and research, rather than relying on only her opinions to support her only statement. Unfortunately, it appears she has a poor grasp on understanding and utilising data and evidence as demonstrated via her public FB page (as she regularly shares non-academic research that could be construed as propaganda or one-sided opinion articles that do not engage with scientific evidence).

    Rosie Batty, in her role as Australian of the Year, is a great example for advocating for tangible change. She has a good grasp of policy and legislation, how government works, and how to engage with different groups in the community to spread her message and advocate for change. You don’t see Rosie in every media appearance saying “domestic violence is bad, we need to do something about it” all the time. She actually brings out statistics and data, talks about existing legislation and policy and makes suggestions on what could be changed in order to improve the situation. She was key in the establishment of a royal commission into family violence, she deputy-chaired the Government’s Advisory Panel on Reducing Violence against Women and their Children, and her efforts has most certainly contributed to the Government making domestic violence a national priority, which includes a $100 million package of measures to address the issue. Rosie used the platform of being Australian of the Year by advocating for tangible change and ensuring delivery of actions, and boy has she done it.

    Drisana has certainly spread awareness and understanding of Auslan in the wider community, which I am grateful for. But when her obligations as Young Australian of the Year ends next month, will wider society continue to care about Auslan? Probably not because there has not been any tangible tools put in place to ensure Auslan remains in the spotlight. Once Drisana’s media appearances die down, so will the spotlight on Auslan.

    I write too much. Maybe I should start a blog.

    • After sitting on it for a day, I’ve come to accept that my above thoughts are perhaps too harsh.

      I’ve worked in Federal Government policy, so have the understanding of how Government works and what the pathways are to advocate for policy change. As such, it was easy for me to say that she has under-performed in her role and has not taken full advantage of the opportunity she was presented. She is only young with limited advocacy experience. So in light of that, it was a little unfair of me to say those things. It certainly would be no easy task to be an advocate at the national level, particularly to try a represent a community that is full of competing opinions and views.

      It would be interesting to see what she does next to ensure Auslan remains in the national spotlight when she is no longer the Young Australian of the Year.

      P.S. Sorry for clogging up your comments space!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s