The A Team

Image is of disabled people disrupting a tram as part of the transport campaign. There is blonde lady at the front, dressed in black with a medium sized brown dog and small white dog.

I had so much fun today. I attended a campaign for accessible transport. It was attended by heaps of people with different disabilities. There was an Auslan interpreter present. We held up the trams at Clifton Hill for fifteen minutes. One of the trams was a beautiful accessible tram that a person in a wheelchair couldn’t get on anyway. Why? Because the tram stop wasn’t built up for it.

Do you know that Deaf and hard of hearing people are spoilt in Australia. It is almost like they cough, and they get what they want. Deaf Auslan users, according to Signbank, number just around 7000 in Australia. Despite this, Auslan interpreters are everywhere. We even have Auslan news on the ABC every Sunday. Government announcements have trusty Auslan interpreters alongside the politicians. Auslan translations of important information can be found on social media. I know of one university that spent $250 000 in a year just providing Auslan interpreters to ONE student.

Yup, Deaf Auslan users get great access. It’s not perfect, mind you. However, when you look at the numbers that the interpreting is for, you begin to realise that they are very well serviced indeed. Woah and betide should a Government make an announcement and no Auslan interpreter is present. Shit hits the fan. As it should.

Hard of hearing get it pretty good too. At least for television. Not too many years ago we might have been lucky to have three or four shows captioned per week. Now virtually every show is captioned. However, compared to Deaf Auslan users hard of hearing have a long way to go. Cinemas still rely on the dreadful Craptiview. Few movies are open captioned. Theatre is not captioned very much either. Strange really, considering that people who are hard of hearing number the millions.

Recently a Deaf friend of mine bemoaned the fact that all of the attention was on Wheelies. They get everything the Deaf friend said. Deaf people are ignored. The Blind get a pension they said. Why cant Deaf people get a pension too? My friend was the eternal victim. I am here to tell you that if any group of disabled people get good access, it is people who are Deaf and hard of hearing, By the proverbial mile.

People with physical disabilities have it very hard indeed. Many buildings in the CBD still have steps and are not accessible. Public transport to the CBD is largely inaccessible, particularly trams. In Victoria, a lot of money has been spent making train stations accessible with lifts and the like. But getting to the Train stations is a nightmare. You cant park, because accessible parking is at a minimum. Footpaths are in disrepair making it difficult for people in wheelchairs to get around. Space for wheelchairs on trains is minimal too. It is not surprising that many people in wheelchairs, or who have mobility issues, avoid public transport like the plague.

And those trams. They are a nightmare. They have modern state of the art trams that are fully accessible. Yet these trams service tram stops that have not been built up properly so that wheelchairs can get on them. On Burwood Highway they have beautiful tram stops that have been built up so that wheelchairs can access the trams that service them. But some scheduling numpty has serviced these stops with very old trams that all have steps. I am due for a hip replacement and I can tell you these old trams are not easy to get on.

Victoria has an accessible transport plan the plan states that by 2022 all infrastructure will be accessible. By 2032 all trams, trains and buses will also be accessible. So that is this year that all transport infrastructure is supposed to be accessible. No chance! Hence, the protest today. It was Auslan interpreted too, sadly I was the only person there that needed the interpreter.

Lobbying is a skilled business. It works better if disabled people find common ground and work together. Accessible transport, for example, is not just about getting on a tram, bus or train. It’s about having access to information. Knowing when trains are cancelled. It’s about information in plain English and staff at stations being trained to be able to assist people with a disability. It is a huge area of access. Disability groups need to find common ground and lobby together. In the lobbying game, numbers win. We all need to be the A Team … The Accessibility Team.

It’s not just transport, its services in general. Communication is a huge issue. It is not just interpreters and captioning. When you rock up at emergency at the hospital you need fluid and clear communication. If you are a person with an intellectual disability you need support to communicate with the doctor. You need information in accessible formats, visual and plain English for example. If you have autism and have some specific social and sensory needs, staff need to be aware of the diversity of needs among autistic people and how they might be able to assist. Deaf need interpreters, hard of hearing need access to captioning and fast. Hospitals need to set up and implement technology that will provide fast and accurate captioning. Health is the next great bastion for disability access.

Communication access is huge in so many areas. Yet, 30 years into my career we still have a fragmented advocacy industry that works largely on their own issues. Instead of finding common ground and working together, they lobby alone and on their own issues. It is so inefficient and such a waste of resources and knowledge. Hell, even Deaf Australia and Deafness Forum go it alone most of the time. It’s crazy.

To me it is so important that the advocacy industry becomes less insular. They need to support each other and find common ground. They need to lobby together and be there for each other. The last time the advocacy industry really got together and lobbied together in this way was probably for the NDIS. We need to revisit that campaign and find out why it was so successful. I’m pretty sure it was because diverse groups found common ground and all worked together!

It is time to work together. We all need to become the A Team!

They think they’re right because there are more of them …

Image is of a cartoon of a woman with brown hair. She is holding her hair in frustration, eyes are angry and she is screaming. The caption reads – Why? Because I said so.

I am having a bit of alone time in Adelaide. I had friends over for a few days and they left yesterday morning. They left me a wonderful Australian Whiskey to sup on, made in the Adelaide Hills, not far from here. As you do when you are alone, you channel hop on the TV. First, it was a bit of cooking, then over to the news, a browse through Stan before finally settling on Netflix. I found a rather depressing movie, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, about the persecution of disabled people in Nazi Germany.

Depressing topic. Nevertheless, I watched it. Thankfully it was only a short movie, 14 minutes long. I won’t go into details, lest the reader wants to watch it, but at the end it gave some harrowing statistics. The Nazis killed over 300 000 people with a disability and sterilised over 400, 000 more. The operation to rid Germany and the world of disabled people led to the development of the Gas Chambers. We all know the awful consequence of that.

Fourteen minutes later I was depressed and continued my hopping. I came across a movie, Marilyn’s Eyes. This explored mental health and how society treats it. The movie has been described as stereotypical and twee, as indeed it was, but it explored a number of very important themes about which we people with a disability are well aware.

It explored the lack of control of the person with a mental health issue. It explored how often they are browbeaten and ignored. It showed they are often denied basic rights such as a say in their treatment or things like access to their children. It explored the theme of people only seeing the disability and not the person’s innate value. And it was a love story. What more could you ask for?

Again, I won’t go into too much detail, lest the reader would like to watch and judge for themselves. I’m pretty sure it will make a huge number of them groan at the stereotypical way mental health is depicted. Nevertheless, there are important themes in this movie, none more important than the quote below:

“… They think they’re right because there are more of them …”

As an advocate I could be a very rich man if I got a dollar for every time I have said that. How often have people with a disability been browbeaten because the so called experts think that they know better? How often have we sat on Boards and Committees as the sole disabled person, only to have our views ignored and be outvoted? How often have we lost resources and money because there were more of them and we were outvoted? It is frustrating and it hurts.

To continue my theme of hopping, I awoke in the morning and began the social media hopping. First to Messenger to see if anyone loves me enough to say hello. Then to Facebook with its mismatch of interesting information and drivel. Finally, to twitter where I saw this from Sam Connor:

“Oh, hi people. If I am tied to a chair and left to die in my filth, without being taken to the toilet or leaving the house for two years. Then my domestic violence perpetrator will only get 6 and a half years for my torture and murder, even if they steal my shit, What a joke.”

Connor’s angry post is referring to Anne Marie Smith. A disabled person in Adelaide who suffered extreme neglect from her carer and care support agency which led to their death. Connor has described what happened in full detail above. It beggars belief. That the perpetrator got only six and a half years for this gross mistreatment of a human being is beyond my comprehension. And this happened HERE in Australia!!

Now, I don’t want to compare Australia to Nazi Germany, but the way Australia treats people with a disability is really appalling. They think they’re right because there are more of them … and it’s true. They use their numbers, they use their authority and they use their power to keep people with a disability firmly at the bottom of the pile. Worse, they show how much they value people with a disability with abhorrent jail sentences like the one described above! (The person could be out in five years with parole.)

You see, these people in power still see us as a burden. They do not want to value us the same way as they value others. They still, in this day and age, don’t want us here. Hell, there is still legal debate about whether it is ok to sterilise people with a disability. People still think it is ok to abort babies with Down Syndrome. They even want to eliminate deafness. The reader might have gathered by now, I am actually kind of angry.

And why wouldn’t I be? My friend, who has a heap of complex communication and disability needs, was denied Auslan because some planner and his boss decided that Auslan would harm her. They argued that an Auslan interpreter can only sign for an hour without stopping. (actually, true), therefore if she were to sign it would cause her fatigue and be bad for her health. It is all crap, they just didn’t want to pay for it.

I’m betting that they also have no clue that Auslan is a real language, not just a bit of hand flapping to aide communication. Do not get me started on the specially funded legal service that tried to deny her access to captioning for a meeting because it was their policy not to caption legal meetings. They think they’re right because there are more of them … Can you see the pattern? (As a footnote, my friend had her Auslan reinstated after a long and stressful AAT appeal.)

Or just this morning, during my Social Media hop, I came across a family who were denied a miniscule amount of money from the NDIS to purchase Auslan resources to help them and their child develop Auslan. They were told no, watch Sally and Possum on the ABC or borrow some books from the library. According to the NDIS, Auslan resources are just like books and therefore a parental responsibility. I kid you not. Such ignorance on the part of the planner is beyond my ability to understand …. They think they’re right because there are more of them … Aye!

And yet again, on a Facebook NDIS discussion page, some Deaf or hard of hearing person has been denied proper access to an NDIS planning meeting through either Auslan or captioning. Worse, they have even tried to make the person do it over the phone. Of course COVID has meant a lot of planning meetings are done over the phone. Not possible if you are Deaf. HELLO!! Are these people serious?

I know of a Deaf parent who was almost excluded from the planning process for their disabled child, because the LAC organisation would rather do a phone planning meeting with the hearing father. This is despite the woman being the primary carer who attends the majority appointments for their child. It’s all about those, the many, and making their job as easy, quick and cheap as possible. Bugger the disabled person!

Let me remind LACs and NDIS Planners, you have an Operational Guideline booklet on communication access, it’s available on your intranet. It clearly outlines what access you must provide and at your expense – READ IT … They think they’re right because there are more of them … I think I have made my point.

These examples are all about deaf people. But believe me it happens to others. The NDIA are hell-bent on cutting back plans and costs. Parents are losing therapy hours for their disabled children because it’s “parental responsibility”. Disabled people are experiencing long delays in receiving much needed technology because the NDIA only want to provide standard and often inadequate technology. Community participation support is withdrawn because the NDIA are saying that its the responsibility of informal supports. Anything to save money!

And you know why? It is because the value of people with a disability is only seen by the amount of money that is spent on them. What would we know? After all … They think they’re right because there are more of them …

The Man Who Would Be King

Image is of a crown, gold with purple velvet inset

We used to call Damian Lacey the Empire Builder. He had grand visions for Deaf Children Australia in the early 2000s. His vision had merit. He wanted one brand for deafness. One brand to raise money, and one brand lobbying for the Deaf community and deaf children. By working together, we could achieve much. The problem was the timing. Australia was not set up for it at that time.

I was a Board member at Deaf Children Australia when Lacey was the CEO. I was very resistant to his vision as were a couple of other Board members. I liked his vision but, in my view, Australia was not set up for a one national Deaf organisation; at that time, at least. I felt we were better placed focusing on deaf children in Victoria, doing this well, and with the reasonably substantial wealth that Deaf Children Australia had at that time.

This was pre-NDIS days. It was a time when state Governments were responsible for disability funding. Governments of the time provided block funding for Deaf Societies to deliver services. As always, this funding was never enough. The Deaf Societies around Australia relied on fundraising to make up the shortfall.

Lacey was determined to expand. My argument was that if he was going to have a national organisation that serviced adults and children, it would be essential that the services of the organisation in each state were equitable. It would not work, I argued, if Victoria provided high class children services and South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland etc received an inferior service. I wanted Deaf Children Australia to do children services well in Victoria, rather than spreading itself thin all over Australia.

I had a more conservative view; Lacey did not. There was no stopping him. He got the majority of the Board’s support and pushed on. At the time, Deaf Societies all over Australia were struggling to stay afloat. The Royal South Australian Deaf Society had to merge with Townsend House, which eventually led to the Deaf community there, losing its spiritual home at 262.

I think Lacey may have offered to help the SA Deaf Society at the time, then known as Deaf SA. I have no idea what happened, but they decided against a merger with Deaf Children Australia and went for Townsend House. Nevertheless, Lacey pushed on. He eventually developed partnerships with the Queensland Deaf Society and the Western Australian Deaf Society. He may have tried for Tasmania as well, but they eventually merged with VicDeaf, now known as Expression Australia.

Lacey worked hard and for a time was CEO of WA, Queensland Deaf Societies and Deaf Children Australia. Deaf Children Australia even branched out into the Northern Territory. It seemed that Lacey had a vision and nothing was going to stop him. Despite good intentions, the partnerships that were established eventually were all dissolved.

I don’t really know all the details but the rapid expansion all fell in a heap. The Deaf Societies in question, all seemed to find some equilibrium and stability. Once that stability was established, the support of Deaf Children Australia was no longer needed. Rumour has it that Lacey delivered an ultimatum to one of his partners that they either did it his way or he would resign. They accepted his resignation. To keep a long story short, that was the end of that.

I have no idea of the business arrangements that went on. I don’t know how much money Deaf Children Australia channelled into these other organisations. But at the end of it all, the partnerships ended and the benefit to Deaf Children Australia appears to have been minimal indeed. Meanwhile, the Queensland Deaf Society, whom Deaf Children Australia originally “propped up“, have gone from strength to strength. Western Australia seems to be doing alright too. The Northern Territory Services branch of Deaf Children Australia never really took off, and they are now part of the rapidly expanding Deaf Connect.

I have a feeling that Lacey would have had a little more success in today’s climate. The NDIS means that the services sector is cherry ripe for a national approach. The business model has changed. Very few services now receive block funding. Services have to play the market. The power has shifted, somewhat, to the consumer. If a services organisation is to survive, they have to provide services that their clients demand.

That also means service providers have to be business savvy. They have to keep overheads to a minimum. Services have to turn over a profit otherwise, like any business that doesn’t make a profit, they will crash and burn. Indeed, many do.

It is now less about the community and more about the organisational survival. Those with the stronger business model will survive. Those that do not have a strong business model will become prey to larger organisations and are ripe for the picking. Ironically, Deaf Connect, who initially were propped up by Deaf Children Australia, are now the biggest player of all Deaf services.

Supposedly, profits from Deaf Connect and other services such as Expression Australia are to be used for the benefit of the Deaf community. How? I am not sure. They do Auslan translations of information such as Covid and other vital news. Beyond that I don’t see a lot. interpreters are provided for Government announcements, but I am pretty sure this is a profitable fee for service arm. Grants are provided to community groups. Discussions have been had about setting up Community Hubs for the Deaf community. I am not seeing a lot of evidence of this at the moment, but the profits are supposed to go back to the Deaf community.

Lacey, the man who would be King, is no more. He has seemingly been replaced by Brett Casey, the CEO of Deaf Connect. Deaf Connect started from a merger of the Queensland Deaf Society and the NSW Deaf Society. In a few short years they have taken over the services of the Northern Territory that were abandoned by Deaf Children Australia, They have recently taken over the services of Deaf Can Do in South Australia.

According to Deaf Can Do CEO, Heidi Limereff, speaking to The Advertiser, this is because Deaf Can Do have lost trust of the SA Deaf community and this trust cannot be rebuilt. As a result, Deaf Connect have received a “… significant amount of money” from Deaf Can Do to take over the services. No doubt this was the so called ‘TRUST FUND’ established from the sale of 262. One can only hope that Deaf Connect gives this significant amount back to the SA Deaf community, and do not swallow it up into their rapid growing coffers.

Ironically, it seems that Lacey’s original vision has come to fruition through the guise of Deaf Connect. Lacey’s problem was not so much his vision, but the timing of that vision. Australia’s deaf services were not ready for it at that time, politically or financially. Even more ironic, one of the organisations that Lacey and Deaf Children Australia helped to prop up, is now leading the charge to take over Deaf services all over Australia.

And what of Deaf Children Australia now? Well they are still there. Trying hard to find a niche in the NDIS market. Existing in an old building that is swallowing any profits that they do make for its upkeep. Lovely old building that it is, its up keep is not financially sustainable for a business. If Deaf Children Australia are to survive, hard decisions have to be made. They are sitting on millions of dollars of land that can not be sold because of heritage and Government caveats, much to their frustration. There is no room for sentiment and hard decisions have to be made.

What of the future of Deaf Children Australia? Perhaps a merger with Expression Australia. Is there room for the two of them? Can Victoria afford two CEOs, two sets of administration and competing services in such a small market?

Perhaps they are a target for the new king of the block, Deaf Connect and its Deaf CEO, Brett Casey. Who knows, but one thing is for sure, change is afoot. Watch this space!

The End! – What next for The SA Deaf Community?

Photo is of the old red brick building that was the Royal South Australian Deaf Society?

I was 24 years old. Still at University and I had been offered a job as a porter a the Royal Adelaide Hospital. I went for an interview for the position of Employment Project Officer at the Royal South Australian Deaf Society, at the old 262. Before that I had done some voluntary work for the Deaf Society. I volunteered for the Deaf high support needs group and also at the Hope Valley retirement village. I didn’t have a drivers licence at the time. The number of jobs that I had applied for was two, in my entire life! And I had recently been offered one of them!

Damian Lacey, the CEO, seemed unimpressed. “How do you expect to do this job without a licence?” He looked me in the eye, his scepticism was plain for all to see. I bumbled some sort of answer that I was close to getting my licence and that it wouldn’t be long. I thought that I had better not tell him I had failed my first driving test after going up the kerb doing a three point turn. I forgot to put it in reverse. So petrified was the poor tester that he refused to go on. “You get out of the car.” he ordered, ” And if you don’t, I’m bloody walking back.” I may have told him to fuck off at that point, it is all a bit of a blur.

Some how, they offered me the role. I had a choice of becoming the Deaf Society Employment Project Officer or a porter at the hospital. I chose the former, I often wonder what would have happened if I had chosen to be a porter. I mean working in a hospital, dealing with medical conditions and the drama of every day life in a hospital had its attractions. Giving people sponge baths, less so. So, I chose the Deaf Society.

I still look back and think I should have been a porter. The politics, the egos, the tragedy and the relentless struggle for people who are Deaf or have disabilities takes its toll. It never stops. I imagine clocking off at five pm. Job done, home to the family, game of golf and finishing with an ice cold beer. I sometimes think not having to deal with the daily struggle of access and inclusion for the Deaf community and disabled people would not necessarily be a bad thing.

But I didn’t choose to be a porter. I chose the Deaf community. It’s been a good life and a good career. I have travelled widely. I have met wonderful people. I have met politicians and stars. I remember being sat next to Todd McKenny at a function. He offered me his hand to shake and said, “Hi, I’m Todd”. I replied, “I know.” He rolled his eyes and said, “Of course you do” We both laughed. He is a really lovely guy.

At a Deafness Forum Summit I met John Howard in a washroom trying to dry his tie with an air dryer, cos he had splashed it washing his hands. He was moving his body backwards and forwards, trying to get his tie dry. There is a famous Mr Bean skit where Mr Bean does exactly the same. I just stared with my hand over my mouth, trying to stifle a giggle. I sometimes wish I had filmed it.

I had the pleasure of meeting Tony Abbott too. I met him in his posh Parliament House office with expensive art on the walls. ( I assume it was expensive anyway.) He was running a little late. He came in and bowed, Asked us to excuse him as he had some personal things to deal with. He came back, said hello and shook my hand. His hand was still wet.

We then sat down around a coffee table to chat. He puts his feet on the table and his hands behind his head. As he did so, his trousers bottoms rucked up revealing his hairy legs and sock tops – “What can I do for you?” he asked. I answered, Can I put my feet on the table too? “ He smiled and said, “Go for it.” I actually enjoyed chatting with him. He challenged me and didn’t patronise me in anyway. I found him really different from his public persona.

All of this started from those humble beginnings as the Deaf Society Employment Project Officer. It is for this reason I look back fondly at my time with the Royal South Australian Deaf Society. She gave me so much and so many great memories. She was my introduction to the Deaf community through Her youth group at the ripe old age of 18. I am very defensive of Her, and very angry at what she became.

There was a time when She was the hub of everything. Before we all got old and egotistical, we worked hard together to make positive change. As Employment Officer I had a licence to create. I once established a bar course for Deaf people at Regency Park TAFE. I argued that Deaf people could work behind a bar and overcome any communication obstacles.

The late and wonderful, Carmela Pavia, was a student and we had her working at the Green Dragon, on the corner of South Terrace and Pultney. It is now Fasta Pasta. One wag of a patron, who wanted a light beer, pointed to the light and then the beer tap. I got interviewed by Channel 10 news. They said that people that go to bars often need to debrief about their life to the bartender. They asked if I would miss doing that if I worked behind the bar. I answered,

“Mate, I’m a social work student, I count myself lucky that they cant talk to me about their life problems!”

Damian, the CEO, was often a great support. The South Australian Association of the Deaf wanted to protest about Debra Swann being discriminated against by the Surf Life Saving Association. He let us use the Deaf Society resources to make banners and posters. We spent hours designing posters and banners and headed off down to the Association’s head office at West Beach. When we got there it was closed! It was all a bit anti-climatic. We left all the banners and posters on the front step and door for the staff and CEO to see in the morning. (Lesson for any would be protesters – Check opening hours before you go,)

Barry Priori passed away this week. He is an icon of the SA Deaf community. Everyone knew Barry. We will all miss him very much. He was one of my first clients. He had been working in a factory and injured his shoulder. He could not work there anymore. I suggested to him that he would make a great Auslan trainer. I mentioned this to my boss, Dorothy O’Brien. She said to get him on board.

I gave him a little bit of training on how to teach. He wanted to be able to clearly explain why Auslan was a language and different from English. We decided to use ‘How are you?’ as an example. We used four examples:

wie geht es dir – German

Come Stai – Italian

How are you – English

Auslan sign for ‘How are you’

We went to our local travel agent and found posters of England, Germany and Italy. These were props. Barry had to teach without using his voice. He would point to ‘How are you?’ that was written on the board- then to the poster of the relevant country . He would then point to the phrase, ‘How are you?’ He would then count the words. He would point to the German poster, then the German translation and then count the words 1-2-3-4. He did the same for the Italian translation – 2 words. The English translation, three words, Finally he would sign Auslan – 1 word!

In this way he pointed out that all languages were different and had different ways to say things. At the end of the lesson he would have a list of all the signs he had used for the lesson. In this case it could be:

How are you?

Numbers 1 to 4

Italy, German, England

Same/different etc

He would show the signs again for each of those words that he had used during the lesson. He wasn’t a qualified teacher, nor was he a linguist. He was just a natural teacher with an enormous gift to engage his class. From that first lesson we worked on together, around 1990, he remained an Auslan teacher for over thirty years. He even had an enormously popular stage show called Naughty Hands, a sell out at the Fringe. Barry is irreplaceable and will be missed immensely.

That was the start of my career. Sadly, to progress in my career I had to leave Adelaide and the old Royal South Australian Deaf Society at 262. It was truly one of the most happy times of my life. In later years the Deaf Society struggled. Funding was cut as the SA Government opted for the Options Coordination program.

When I was there it was a vibrant hub. It had three community workers and a youth worker. It had me, the Employment Officer. It had a large fundraising team and the Auslan training team. There was an Early Childhood Group coordinator. There was the senior citizens group that I absolutely loved. Friday night was club night. It was just brilliant, a real community hub. Let’s not forget that it also had a CEO, a Services Manager, a Payroll Officer, an admin team and the interpreters coordinator.

Once the funding was cut it was the beginning of the end. Supports were gradually reduced, Assets were sold off to stay afloat. An Audiology business was established to make money. But it was a struggle. Indeed, many of the business decisions made were questionable. One cannot be too critical, it was an enormously difficult challenge.

In 2007, it seemed that the end was nigh. The Royal South Australian Deaf Society reached out to Townsend House for help to stay afloat. At the time someone sent me the partnership proposal. I urged caution. From what I could see they basically were signing over all control to Townsend House. I remember writing a Rebuttal and saying if they were not careful, the much loved 262 building could be sold from right under the Deaf communities noses.

Oh boy! That upset lots of people at the top. To keep a long story short, I copped a torrent of abuse from the President and Townsend House CEO. I was accused of making up stories for print space. I argued that the old 262 belonged to the Deaf community. The Deaf community had raised the funds for it. Indeed, many Deaf trades people had been involved in the building of 262. I argued that it was for the Deaf community to control and that the Deaf community should have the last say.

Promises were made that 262 would never be sold. The Deaf community in South Australia were led to believe that they would have the last say. We all know what happened. A few years later the building was sold. This was despite massive protests from the SA Deaf community. The heart and soul of the South Australian Deaf community was ripped out from asunder them.

It is true that the old 262 was a financial burden in the end. It was a massive expense to keep. It was probably the right decision to sell it. BUT, the Deaf community were ignored. The asset was sold against their wishes. The community has never really recovered from its broken heart,

Townsend House, who took over the Deaf Society, shunted the community centre off to Modbury, to an old Indoor Cricket Centre that they had inherited, It was a soul-less building. Not central and not near public transport. Despite the best efforts of many Deaf community members, Modbury never took off.

Last year Townsend House wrote a series of letters to the Deaf community apologising for what they had done in selling 262. They wanted to consult with the Deaf community to find a way forward. I am told they consulted with over 70 members of the community. I was one of them. At my talk with them they revealed to me that the money they had gotten from the 262 sale was held in a trust fund. They asked me what I would do.

I said to give it back ton the Deaf community. I said to allow the Deaf community to develop a consortium of Deaf business people and services experts. I suggested that the Deaf community might like to develop a Deaf Hub. A centre for Deaf business and community support, staffed by and run by Deaf people.

I have no idea what happened from these consultations. What I do know is that the Deaf Society, by this time a services branch of the Can Do Group called Deaf Can Do, has this week handed over its services to Deaf Connect. Whether this is what the Deaf community asked for in their message through the consultations, I don’t know. But this is what is happening.

Deaf Connect are a huge group. They started from a merger with the Queensland Deaf Society and NSW Deaf Society. They have recently expanded to the Northern Territory and now they have taken over Deaf services in South Australia. Their CEO is a Deaf man, Brett Casey. They aggressively seek and employ Deaf talent into management roles. They are definitely PRO DEAF!

Last night (4/3/22) they held an information session with the South Australian Deaf community. I understand that around 80 people attended. Details are sketchy, but I understand that in taking over the services, equity and funding from the old Royal South Australian Deaf Society was not transferred to them. I understand that the audiology business, set up with Deaf Society funding and quite profitable, remains with the Can Do Group.

What of that trust fund? Is it gone forever? Have the Can Do Group hoodwinked the Deaf community? Have they washed their hands of the Deaf community and said to Deaf Connect – “Here, you have the services, we don’t want them”?

Deaf Connect are a huge franchise. I have no doubt that CEO, Brett Casey, will engage and involve the South Australian Deaf community properly. But, what of that trust fund that was generated from the sale of 262? Will it be handed back to the rightful owners, the South Australian Deaf community? Those funds came from the blood, sweat and tears of that community. Are those funds lost forever, swallowed up into the massive coffers of the Can Do Group?

I wish Deaf Connect well as they service the wonderful South Australian Deaf community. But for me it seems that it really is THE END! And those questions I have asked, hopefully there are some answers!

Photo is head shot of Barry Priori, he has a cheeky smile and is wearing spectacles, He is sporting an immaculately groomed, white and long goatee beard.