As 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???