(For the Auslan version of this video, please scroll to the bottom.)
Albo put the Deaf community offside on the very first day of the election campaign. He announced support for the Shepherd Centre. He promised $1.5 Million to develop the Hearhub online platform that the Centre runs. Hearhub, in the words of the Shepherd Centre:
” …. is on a mission to improve the listening and communication skills of children with hearing loss around the world by revolutionising the way clinicians and educators work with children in the listening space. Our innovative online tools and courses provide professionals with a suite of unique resources to support children and their families.”
The Shepherd Centre has a bit of a Voldemort complex with the Deaf community, as in “…they who should not be named.” In the past they have had a stubborn refusal to accept Auslan as part of their early intervention programs. They, along with Dimity Dornan’s Hear and Say Centres, are seen as the bastions of oralism and the enemy of Auslan. Both have previously steadfastly refused to accept Auslan in any shape or form. Dimity, of course, once called Deafness a scourge and compared it to polio. It did not go down well. This old article at Ramp Up, My Deafness is no Scourge; an open letter to Dimity Dornan, will give you some idea of the hurt that she caused.
So as luck would have it, Albo’s first commitment of the election campaign was to commit $1.5 million to the Shepherds Centre’s Hearhub. To the surprise of no one, many in the Deaf community erupted. In years gone by, I would have been one of the many to be appalled. But not anymore, and here is why.
You see, very recently The Shepherd Centre announced that they were taking on the wonderful Hear for You Deaf Mentoring Program. Of course, Hear for You wasn’t just about Deaf youth; it was about hard of hearing youth as well. It provided both with some wonderful opportunities and exposure. And that was whether they used Auslan or were oral.
Now, I can imagine that there were many Deaf people, hearing that the Shepherd Centre were now going to run the program, thought that this would lead to some form of discrimination against Auslan users. Nope, that’s far from the truth. In fact, possibly for the very first time, The Shepherd Centre have publicly committed to supporting kids that use Auslan. Here is what their CEO had to say:
“I am so excited about Hear For You joining with The Shepherd Centre to create a new organisation that will be able to provide even better services to more participants. And we will also be supporting participants who use spoken language for their communication as well as participants who use Auslan for their communication because we want to make sure that all of them have access to the best services that can make sure that their future life will be as bright as possible.”
There you have it, straight from the horses mouth. The Shepherd Centre want to make sure that young people who use Auslan have the very best start in life. One assumes that means to all their programs from birth, right through to adolescence. That’s brilliant!!
So, what I suggest is that the Deaf community get on board really quickly and begin to have some influence. Make sure that native Auslan users are involved right from the start. Make sure the inevitable development of early intervention Auslan programs are set up properly by Deaf professionals and teachers. In this way we can make sure that young Auslan users get the very best start in life.
And if Albo gets in, part of that $1.5 million can be used to develop world class Auslan programs from birth to adolescence. This will mean that the futures of the young people that use Auslan, in the words of the Centre CEO, “… Will be as bright as possible.”
Come on Deaf Australia, get in there now so that the Shepherd Centre can develop the very best Auslan programs possible! There is no time like the now!
(THE VIEWS EXPRESSED IN THIS POST ARE THE VIEWS OF THE AUTHOR ALONE.)