Introducing Tom Softly

If you have not noticed, Julia Gillard got cast on the scrapheap. Julia Gillard was, of course, the Prime Minister of Australia. I think she was a great Prime Minister who achieved much in difficult political circumstances. History will be kind to her, particularly her efforts to push through the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The last weeks of Julia Gillard’s reign were marked by a frantic push to get the NDIS legislation through parliament. During this time Julia Gillard met with many people with a disability. She gave her time to answer questions from people with a disability, their family members and service providers. During one of these many meetings Julia Gillard was to meet Tom Softly. A beautiful and impromptu photo was taken. In this photo was a clearly joyous and excited Tom Softly. The then Prime Minister shook Tom’s hand and beamed the most warm and genuine smile. Both Tom and Julia Gillard were clearly enjoying the moment equally.

Tom

Well we all know who Julia Gillard is. She will soon be lost to politics forever. But who is Tom Softly?

Tom has Down syndrome and was born almost 29 years ago. He lives at home with his Mum and Dad, and his Boxer dog, Bella. He has two younger sisters and a 4-year-old niece – he loves being Uncle Tom.  He works in a recycling factory three days a week, and enjoys the social scene at work and the canteen where they make great chips. Tom wants a more challenging job, one that will get him out into the community and meeting people.

Tom lives in Western Australia. Because of this his future is particularly uncertain. It is uncertain because Western Australia has yet to sign up for the NDIS. The Western Australian Premier, Colin Barnet, insists that WA has a great disability support system. Tom’s mother Jackie disputes this, “The actual figures are that only 20% of people with a disability who apply for funding in Western Australia get it. Many families like ours are told not to bother applying because we will only get funding when we are dead or bloody close to it.“
 Not surprisingly Jackie is a strong advocate for the NDIS. She wants Premier Barnet to stop playing political games and sign up immediately.

But back to Tom. Tom has some great skills. His great love is riding motorbikes which he has done since he was 15 years old. Tom rides in Observed Trials. Observed Trials is a motor cycle sport that involves standing on the foot pegs and balancing while undertaking ridiculously impossible jumps and manoeuvres. These rides are routed over rock formations and through creeks. Tom has shelves of trophies and medals and is a respected rider among his peers. Tom is known for his courage. If he takes a tumble he gets back on again and has another go. Tom doesn’t use much speech. Despite this he is an active member of two clubs. He is well liked among his friends and goes by the nickname of “The Shark”.

Tom’s is a go-getter and also enjoys kayaking in summer. He recently has taken up golf. His other passions include Doctor Who, Guns n Roses, Michael Jackson and Queen. His favourite meal is bangers and mash. He loves Rottnest Island, particularly its bakery that sells huge Hedgehog Slices. He’s never happier than when he’s enjoying a drink with family and friends at the Quokka Arms. Most of all Tom is Tom and people love him for that. Says Jackie, “He knows more neighbours than we do. He mows our lawns and we have the best lawn in the street because of his careful work and ‘no rush, do it properly’ attitude to life.”

Tom gets frustrated when people underestimate him. Jackie explains, “Every single day people underestimate him, stare at him and often talk about him in front of him. He endures their low expectations at work, and in other settings. Often it’s people who should know better but don’t see Tom, they just see the stereotype.”  Jackie is a typically proud mother and the lack of support in the system frustrates her no end,  “He has so much potential, but the system – education, employment, lack of adequate support and people’s attitudes make it incredibly hard to even be in places and positions where he can learn and grow.”

And that moment with Julia Gillard, how did that come about?

As Jackie recalls the day her pride for Tom and respect for Julia Gillard is apparent. Jackie and Tom had rocked up early for an event organised by Every Australian Counts that the former PM was attending. They assisted to prepare nametags and the like. Jackie explained to one of the organisers that Tom had a gift for the Prime Minister in the form of a Down Syndrome Western Australia Calendar. Tom was Mr January and he had signed it especially for the PM. Tom had always been interested in Prime Ministers. When he was younger he once had pointed to the TV and said, “Bob Awk”

The organizer arranged so that Tom could sit next to the PM and give her the Calendar. Jackie recalls that when Tom gave the PM the Calendar and offered her his hand to shake, the PM’s reaction was genuine and warm.  The photo took every one by surprise and the pose that Tom struck is reserved only for people that he genuinely likes and respects. “The respect” says Jackie, “Was mutual and was reciprocated by the PM.”

Through out the event Julia Gillard made sure she listened to everyone’s stories carefully. When asked, she was only to happy to provide Tom with an autograph. A very small gesture that highlighted the former PMs genuine respect is fondly remembered by Jackie, The Pm had told Tom that she was pleased to have met him. As she was doing this another person asked her for an autograph. Tom’s pen, that she had used to sign the autograph, was on the desk in front of Tom. The PM smiled at him and asked if she might borrow his pen.”

This small gesture was, for Jackie, the ultimate mark of respect. Another person might have just taken the pen or asked if the pen could be borrowed through Jackie rather than asking Tom directly. It was just a small token act but one that spoke volumes for PM’s attitude towards people with disabilities.

As for Tom, he took meeting the PM in his stride. But whenever he sees that photo his eyes light up and he breaks into a broad smile. It is just another highlight of a life that has been well lived.

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Wheres Sherlock When You Need Him?

sherlock-holmesWe need Sherlock Holmes and we need him now. You see over in Adelaide there is an incredible mystery unfolding. The mystery is the sale of 262.  Now we were led to believe that Townsend House want to sell 262 and are desperately seeking a buyer. You see, its services arm, Deaf Can Do, is going belly up. Townsend House inherited Deaf Can Do when they agreed to help save what was the old Royal South Australian Deaf Society. Despite injecting many hundreds of thousands of dollars into Deaf Can Do it is still running at a loss. Townsend House want to recoup their investment. The answer? Sell the spiritual and cultural home of the Deaf community so that they can get back their ill thought out investment.

Regular readers of The Rebuttal have been following this saga avidly. Indeed it has become the most popular series of articles that The Rebuttal has ever produced. Mysteriously I awoke on Sunday Morning to find an email informing me that there is a buyer for 262. The buyer is Healing Life Ministries. It seems they are an arm of the Baptist church. They are familiar with 262 because they hire  it regularly for churchy things. They heal people apparently. Ironically they heal deaf people too. I guess that’s one way to put the final nail in the coffin of Deaf Can Do. Heal all the deaf people of South Australia so that Deaf Can Do becomes redundant.

Anyway Healing Life Ministries have told their members that they have an opportunity to purchase the Deaf Centre at 262. They are asking their members to show the support of the effort to purchase 262 by donating money into their bank account. Sounds a bit suss doesn’t it? What is more curious is that 262 is not yet on the open market even though Townsend House have made it clear they desire to sell 262, and quickly. Despite the apparent urgency of a sale there is no information on the Internet that hints that 262 is on the market at all.

Despite this Healing Life Ministries have made the extraordinary claim that they have an opportunity to purchase 262. How has this become so? Have there been negotiations going on unbeknown to anyone in the Deaf community? Is this the reason why Townsend House have refused the approach of the Community Housing group that offered to take over the maintenance of 262 in exchange to be able to build apartments on vacant land? Even though 262 is apparently not yet up for sale the appearance of Healing Life Ministries as a serious buyer suggests some intensive negotiations have been happening. Have Townsend House been fully transparent about their efforts to sell 262? Come in Sherlock, we need you!

It is becoming quite bizarre. Two weeks or so back Townsend House released a video explaining why they needed to sell 262 and why they had rejected the offer of the Community Housing group. In the video there was a woman speaking while an Auslan interpreter translated what she was saying. I received an email indicating that this woman was from an external Public Relations firm. The firm were hired to make the announcement because apparently the Townsend House CEO is being stalked by a “mad deaf man”.  I am quoting directly from the email here. SHEEEERRRRRLOOOCKKK COMMMMEEE INNNNNN!

It gets worse. There are accusations and allegations that there is someone associated with the Baptist church who is closely associated with Townsend House. Of course the Baptist church that the Healing Life Ministries are part of has many streams. It may well be that this allegation is unfounded but something very strange is happening here.

It is clear that Townsend House is not being fully transparent about what is happening. Of course they will claim that they could not say anything because negotiations were “Commercial and In Confidence.” Well this is not the case now because Healing Life Ministries have publicly asked their members to donate so that they can follow through on the purchase of 262. It’s not confidential any more so perhaps Townsend House might like to take the opportunity to be fully truthful about what is going on.

The sad thing here is that the Deaf community of South Australia are being treated shabbily and disrespectfully. This has to be one of the most shameful episodes of mistreatment of a minority group that has ever occurred. And we don’t need Sherlock to deduce that for us!

The Rebuttal calls on Townsend House to stop this farce now! Come forward and be fully transparent with the South Australian Deaf community.  They deserve that much at least!

On the Soap Box

TomI was going to write about committees today. You know committees that run our lives. These committees are everywhere. You know they are either Boards charged with running our disability orgs or they’re groups of volunteers running our sports clubs and so on. Well I was going to write about how people stack them. They do this by picking only people that think like them.  Well I am here to stand on my soap box and tell the stackers that diversity is good. What you need on a committee are people that will disagree vehemently with you but are willing to debate to consensus. It’s about the community people not just you and your mates .. Nepotism sucks.

I was gonna write a whole article about this. But then Howard Sattler decided to be a dick. In fact anyone that has seen Howard Sattler on Sunrise will know he is a dick at the best of times. But this time, to misquote the late and un-great Saddam Hussein, he decided to be the mother of all dicks. (With apologies to mothers who really do not deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as Mr Sattler.) Speaking to The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, Dick Sattler asks, “Is your partner gay?” It’s not because Dick thinks so you see, its because others do. Dick is just asking the question on behalf of others. Cos you know Prime Minister Gillard’s Partner is a hairdresser. It’s possible isn’t it? You know hairdressers are gayie sort of people aint they? Im not sure how the local Barber feels about that but there you go. Hairdressers are the gayie type.

I am trying to use humour here. I fear that if I do not then I will get really offensive. I just cannot believe that anyone could dare ask the Prime Minister of Australia if their partner was gay. Now of course if Prime Minister Julia Gillard was gay that would be fine but as far as I know she is not. BUT the question was asked simply to shock. It was asked simply to disrespect. No one, let alone the Prime Minister, should have to put up with this crap.  Can you imagine a radio interviewer asking Tony Abbott if his wife was a Lesbian?  Come on! What is happening to this country? It’s not just disrespectful to the Prime Minister it’s disrespectful to people who are Gay or Lesbian. It’s disrespectful to women. It’s disrespectful to men who choose career paths that traditionally are female oriented – nurses for example. I despair, I really do.

I thought that was bad but then It actually got worse. I have a friend on Facebook who I have never met. She has a son who has Down Syndrome. Her son was lucky enough yesterday to meet Prime Minister Gillard.  Tom is his name and he wanted a photo taken with the Prime Minister who was more than happy to  oblige. His proud mum put the photo on Facebook. It is a beautiful photo. Tom is beaming excitedly and the Prime Minister is clearly enjoying the moment too. It was a moment to be celebrated. But no! Some people had to make derogatory comments about the Prime Minister. Presumably for taking advantage of people with a disability. I just cannot believe that people would want to spoil this wonderful moment for Tom and also the Prime Minister. When did people become so narrow minded and mean? I despair, I really do!

On another matter someone posted a rather humorous email about a well credentialed woman who was asked to champion a product of a Multinational company. Problem was the Multinational company expected this woman and others like her to do it for free. The woman wrote a rather scathing email to the company that suggested a rich company trying to promote women in a positive light should at least pay for it. Especially given the general lower status of women in Australia. (Did you know, for example, that women apparently only own 1% of property in Australia and earn only 10% of the money even though they make up more than 50% of the population.)

I can tell you that a similar mentality exists in the Disability sector. I have lost count of how many committees I have sat on for free for organisations that are actually quite wealthy. Hell I even sat on the Disability Advisory Committee to the Premier in South Australia and received not a penny.  Government groups are forever contacting me to seek my advice and they hardly ever pay. In fact the first time I ever received a sitting fee for a committee was back in 2009.

Look, I get it that many groups lack funding. I am always happy to volunteer my time to these groups. BUT there are many that actually have the capacity to pay. For some unknown reason people with a disability are expected to offer their services for free. Apparently there have been complaints  about people who are trying to profiteer from offering advice to the NDIS. Well I am sorry but we can not be expected to forever offer our services for free. And then the Australian Human Rights Commission pays able bodied models to sit in wheelchairs for a photo shoot. I despair, I really do.

There once was a boss who asked me advice on an issue. I gave advice that went along the lines of that disability is not a cost. I gave data and examples of where disability was a return for investment. I gave examples of embedded disability planning into processes. For some reason, perhaps because I am British, my advice was poo pooed. It could not be because I was disabled could it? But anyway the boss suggested that we speak to a consultant about the issue. A consultant was booked in for a meeting. The consultant basically repeated verbatim what I had already said. But because he was a consultant his information was for some reason revealing and the boss was willing to put forward up to $10 000 to receive this advice. Advice I could give as part of my salary.  The worlds gone mad!

Yep I despair, I really do. Now off the sop box, the weekend is coming and thank god for that!

The Lesser Evil …

ChoiceIt’s been a big week for the South Australian Deaf Community. They received an offer to save their beloved 262 building. This building is their second home; if they lose it they have nothing. They received an offer from a Community Housing group to take over the maintenance of the building and also rebuild the Deaf centre. What the Community Housing Group would want in return is to build apartments on the vacant land at the back of 262 for profit.  262 would remain in the hands of Deaf Can Do and the Deaf community could still use it as their home.

To the Deaf community it seemed like a win win. But the management of Deaf Can Do, in reality the Board of Townsend House, rejected the offer. To be fair on them they made an effort through a letter to the community to explicitly explain their reasons. However, their reasons do not really make a lot of sense.

The bottom line is Deaf Can Do are in a bad way.  Money that is being raised through fundraising, businesses and government grants is not covering the cost of managing Deaf Can Do. Townsend House, in an effort to keep Deaf Can Do afloat, have lent a lot of money to the Deaf Can Do entity. Understandably they want that money back.

Judy Curran, CEO of Townsend House, in her letter to the community explained that they felt that the Community Housing proposal would not make enough money to cover the losses that Townsend House has made. Further she explained that the money raised was not enough to keep Deaf Can Do open. Under Corporate Law, argues Ms. Curran, the management of Deaf Can Do must do all they can to save the business and its services. They also must do all they can to keep Deaf Can Do afloat so that those Deaf in ‘NEED’ can continue to receive services.

One can empathise with the dilemma that the management of Deaf Can Do are facing. Firstly they want to keep Deaf Can Do running for the Deaf in ‘NEED’ and secondly they want to get back the money they have invested to keep Deaf Can Do afloat.

Let’s be honest here, Townsend House did not really loan money to Deaf Can Do. In every sense of the word the management arrangement that they have for Deaf Can Do puts them in full control. One could argue that they actually OWN Deaf Can Do, including its last asset 262. It is hard to understand how they could loan Deaf Can Do any money because Deaf Can Do is actually THEM. It comes under the Can Do group of companies and services that Townsend House manages.  What they have done is invest in Deaf Can Do hoping that it would come good.  It hasn’t, its gone arse up to put it bluntly.

Ok they have invested in an entity and they have not seen the return that they had wished for. Understandably they want to cut their losses and even recoup the investment that they have made.  The logic of Townsend House is that to do this they have to sell what is probably the last viable asset of the Deaf Can Do business. They will sell 262. They will then, presumably, take back what they are owed. Then they will give what’s left to the Deaf Can Do arm of their franchise hoping that it will remain afloat.

This is where their business reasoning becomes perplexing. It’s perplexing because they already know that keeping Deaf Can Do alive is like flogging a dead horse. The money raised from the sale of 262 will keep the Deaf Can Do arm of their Can Do franchise running for a year or two more and then it will keel over.  It will be finished. Townsend House will not want to invest any more money in Deaf Can Do and they will have to let it die. After 262 is sold that will be the end of the last asset that can keep Deaf Can Do afloat. Once it is gone there is nothing and the real losers are the Deaf community.

The smart thing to do is to let Deaf Can Do die. Let it go. Townsend House, if they so wish, can keep the profitable parts of the franchise, perhaps the audiology business and perhaps the interpreting business. They can let Deaf Can Do go and still keep 262 for the Deaf community.  But how?

Well firstly they need to follow one of their arguments for retaining Deaf Can Do and selling 262; namely the commitment to support the Deaf who are in NEED. If they are really serious about this they will see that 262 is the single most important thing needed by Deaf people. Without it they have nowhere to go.  They have nowhere to meet. They have nowhere to socialize.  They will have no sense of pride. The end result of this is a disenfranchised people who will then become lonely and isolated and who will be prey to any number of mental health issues that are associated with isolation and loneliness.

If you want to destroy a community and culture and see the consequences look no further than the Aboriginal community. This is exactly what happened to them. Their community and cultural structure, so important to their sense of identity and purpose, was ripped from under them. We all know the result of that. There is a reason why so many Aboriginal people die earlier and have drug and alcohol problems. It is largely because their community and culture was virtually destroyed. It is only now that they are starting to slowly claw it back and rebuild their culture and identity.

So if Townsend house want to ensure that Deaf people in NEED get support, 262 is the single most important decision they will make. Arguably Deaf Can Do is not needed. Let it go. Save 262. Accept the Community Housing proposal. The proposal might take time to take off but it will at least retain an asset that over time will continue to appreciate in value. And it will cost Townsend House nothing!

But to sell 262 and channel the profits to Deaf Can Do is to throw good money after bad. It will only stall the inevitable. Let Deaf Can Do go. Wrap it up and save 262 so that it can remain as the spiritual and community home of the Deaf community.  Townsend House will get the money they invested in Deaf Can Do back a little slower but it will mean 262 can remain a viable asset that will appreciate in value for them and the Deaf community.

Losing 262 will destroy a community. Losing Deaf Can Do will be sad but arguably it is the lesser of two evils.  There is another way. Think about it!

Going Going …Goooonnneeeee?……

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Over in South Australia the Deaf community is battling to save the iconic 262 building that has been their home since the 1920s. Regular readers of The Rebuttal will know that the South Australian Deaf community has been fighting hard to save their spiritual and community home. As it was pointed out in the Rebuttal’s last article the Deaf community received an offer to take over the building and the cost of its maintenance. The offer essentially meant that the Deaf community could remain at the building and retain its long association and history with it. However, the powers that be have rejected the offer.

The reasons for the rejection are not entirely clear.  They have e-mailed Deaf Sport recreation South Australia to explain their decision. Typically the powers that be have hidden behind legal jargon to explain the rejection of the offer. They have used terms like “Not viable” – “Not in line with the constitution” – “Needing to follow the Corporations Act to protect the interest of the Deaf Society.” – “Needing to ensure support is available to those deaf in need.” Despite the use of fancy legal terms the Deaf community are really none the wiser as to the reason behind the rejection. One suspects that the offer was rejected simply because it was not going to provide immediate access to liquid capital. In other words CASH! Or perhaps my cynicism knows no bounds.

I received the most extraordinary email out of the blue on Monday. The email was from a person who wished to remain anonymous. With the email were a number of attachments, 12 attachments in fact. The attachments provided a poignant insight into the history of the 262 saga. I have sought in this article to summarise some of the information that has been divulged. It does not make for pretty reading.

The documents received suggest that a combination of ill thought out business ventures, falling Government funding and falling fundraising revenue led to cash flow difficulties. Because the kitty was bare the Royal South Australian Deaf Society was in grave danger of keeling over. To prevent this from happening the Royal South Australian Deaf Society approached Townsend House for assistance. This was in 2007. (The Royal South Australian Deaf Society is now known as Deaf Can Do. For the purpose of continuity we have used the name Royal south Australian Deaf Society throughout this article.)

It is important to realise that organisations like the Royal South Australian Deaf Society do not always have a lot of cash assets. Often assets are tied up in investments like shares or property. When such organisations make substantial losses they often liquidate their assets to pay off the losses.

This might involve the selling of shares or of property. In this way cash is raised and losses are covered. The problem is that when assets are constantly liquidated eventually there are no assets left. The farm gets sold off, so to speak. It is clear from the documents that were emailed to me that this is gradually what happened to the Royal South Australian Deaf Society.

Fundraising is not always about asking for money through telemarketing, bequests, rattling tin cans or through raffles, although these are important strategies. Fundraising also can involve embarking on business initiatives.

This might be the renting out of office space. It may involve setting up a business arm to make profits. Such profits can then be channelled back into the organisation. This is where we get the term “Not for Profit” organisation. Not for Profit Organisations can make a profit but this profit must be used by the organisation for its services and running costs. Many organisations, including The Royal South Australian Deaf Society, have a combination of fundraising that involves the traditional and business approaches. (They also often receive Government funding for services.)

Traditional fundraising is always a bit of a hit and miss. The author of the documents that were emailed believes that fundraising for the Royal South Australian Deaf Society was and is not particularly effective. The documents suggest that fundraising income for the Royal South Australian Deaf Society between 2009 and 2012 increased by 37.5%. One might see that as a success but it seems that the cost to implement this fundraising increased by a whopping 170% in the same period.

What this means is that money raised from this fundraising has been minimal. Certainly any minimal gains that were obtained went straight to paying the bills. Very little of this money would have gone directly to the Deaf community.

In an attempt to address the shortfall in fundraising dollars the Royal South Australian Deaf Society embarked on an aggressive “diversification” strategy. This involved the establishment of what would hopefully become income-generating businesses. There was an attempt to run a second-hand clothing business. This was abandoned after a period of time, presumably because it was not profitable. By far the biggest outlay was on the audiology business that is now known as Can Do Hearing.

The documents received indicate that expenses at the Royal South Australian Deaf Society increased almost 45% between 2004 and 2006. The increase in expenditure was in the vicinity of $1m. The documents received allude that much of this increased expenditure can be attributed to the establishment of the audiology business. Returns from the business were not immediate. This is not unusual because often a new business needs time before it becomes profitable. The lack of immediate return for the investment meant that the Royal South Australian Deaf Society had significant cash flow problems. As the result of these cash flow problems the Royal South Australian Deaf Society turned to Townsend House for assistance.

We are now at 2007. Around mid 2007 the Royal South Australian Deaf Society held a community forum. The community forum had the purpose of informing the Deaf community of the financial situation and also outlined how Townsend House would assist. It seems that the severe shortage of cash, rapidly decreasing traditional fundraising returns and the rapid erosion of investments left the Royal South Australian Deaf Society with little option but to cry for help. Townsend House responded to the cry for help.

The ‘help’ was described at the time as a ‘PARTNERSHIP’.  Many were skeptical and saw it as an outright takeover that gave Townsend House virtually full control of the Royal South Australian Deaf Society.

Over the years the management of the Royal South Australian Deaf Society have tried to justify the decisions that they have made. However some of the arguments that they have used over the years do not stand up to scrutiny.

The Partnership

Consistently the relationship between Townsend House and the Royal South Australian Deaf Society was described as a partnership. This ‘PARTNERSHIP’ was to protect the financial viability of the Royal South Australian Deaf Society and secure the future of 262.

The author of the documents that were received believes that any suggestion that Townsend House and the Royal South Australian Deaf Society had entered into a ‘PARTNERSHIP’ is misleading. A number of reasons for this were outlined by the author. I have paraphrased these arguments below:

•         The ‘Partnership’ between Royal South Australian Deaf Society and Townsend House meant that the Royal South Australian Deaf Society became a “controlled entity” of Townsend House. In other words the power to decide the future of the Royal South Australian Deaf society was solely with the management of Townsend House. Townsend House can and do control the financial and operating policies of The Royal South Australian Deaf Society and get benefits for Townsend House from the things the Royal South Australian Deaf Society does.

•         It also means that Townsend House essentially owns and controls all Royal Soth Australian Deaf Society services and assets, including 262 South Terrace, Adelaide.

•         Though Royal South Australian Deaf Society financial performance did improve just after the 2007 takeover, big operating losses over the past two years have again put them in a perilous and declining financial position.

•        In 2012, 5 years after promising to “save” 262, the ‘PARTNERSHIP’ announced that they could no longer afford to keep the 262 property and needed to put it up for sale.

•        Today, just 6 years after the 2007 takeover, the Royal South Australian Deaf Society is again on the brink of financial collapse – and the 262 heritage property is to be sold!

The Gift

In 2012 the Royal South Australian Deaf Society offered the 262 building to the Deaf community, through Deaf Sport and Recreation South Australia. The condition of the gift was that they had to prove that they had the ability to look after and maintain the building.

The author of the documents that were emailed believes that the GIFT was never a serious offer. There are a number of reasons or this:

•         If the Royal South Australian Deaf Society with all the money it receives from Government funding grants, the money it makes from services and the profits it makes from the audiology business could not afford the up keep of 262. HOW then could Deaf Sport Recreation South Australia, who have virtually no assets, do so? For this reason alone the conditions of the GIFT were never viable. The management of the Royal South Australian Deaf Society would have known this from the onset.

•         One of the conditions of the GIFT was that the Deaf community were not allowed to set up services at 262 that might be seen as competition for the Royal South Australian Deaf Society. This effectively cut off many viable alternatives to raise money for the up-keep of 262. The management of the Royal South Australian Deaf Society would have been well aware of this.

•         The Royal South Australian Deaf Society is effectively broke and has had to borrow a large amount of money from Townsend House. The sale of 262 would inevitably be seen as the easy and obvious way to pay back these loans to Townsend House.

•         It seems is highly unlikely that the management of the Royal South Australian Deaf Society could ever have truly believed the 262 property would be gifted to the Deaf community.  Selling 262 is clearly the easy solution that will allow Townsend House to recoup the money that they have loaned.

SURVIVAL

The management of the Royal South Australian Deaf Society will have us believe that to continue to provide services to the Deaf community it is important that the Royal South Australian Deaf Society survives.

The author of the documents believes that this line of argument is being used to scare the Deaf community and make them toe the line. The reality is:

•         The Management of the Royal South Australian Deaf Society is using “the best interests of The Royal South Australian Deaf Society” argument as an excuse for selling 262.

•         Townsend House has full control of the Royal South Australian Deaf Society. Any decisions that they make are therefore more likely to be made because they are seen as beneficial to Townsend House. The needs of the Deaf community are not the priority.

•         The management of the Royal South Australian Deaf Society argue that if 262 is not sold services will be lost. This is misleading because even if the Royal South Australian Deaf Society closes Townsend House still has full control over the services funding and the audiology business. Services will continue regardless as to whether 262 is old or not.

•        The reality is that the sale of 262 is more about recouping money loaned than it is about the future of the Royal South Australian Deaf Society and its services.

As it stands the Deaf community home at 262 is on the cusp of being sold. The sale will mean that the Deaf community will have lost its last ongoing and enduring asset. Let’s be clear 262 was established for the Deaf community and therefore any profits that are made from it, including its potential sale, should be channeled back to and controlled by the Deaf community.

This is unlikely to happen because the Deaf community has been totally disenfranchised from the running and control of assets that were established for their benefit. The author of the documents is at pains to point this out. The author has highlighted the fact that the Deaf community has no membership whatsoever to the Royal South Australian Deaf Society. In fact the Royal South Australian Deaf Society has a “closed” membership and is controlled by 8 hearing people who are its sole members. These 8 people have total control of the Royal South Australian Deaf Society and the future of 262.

What is worse is that the constitution that has been adopted for the Royal South Australian Deaf Society effectively prevents Deaf people from becoming members. In fact the whole constitution can be changed at the whim of the 8 people who are deemed as members and without consultation. It is a terrible situation. Essentially it means the Deaf community and Deaf people have no control at all over the future of the institutions and assets that were originally established for their benefit.

THIS IS THE REALITY. The Deaf community is about to lose its last and only asset. It is an asset that was established for THEIR BENEFIT. Not only that, any control that they had over this asset has been totally wrested from them.

As it stands there are currently two options. The first option is an offer from a not for profit housing group known as Development Partnership Proposal. This group have, according to the author of the documents received, “ ..provided the requisite financial support for Deaf Sport Recreation South Australia to operate, maintain and sustain the building both in the short-medium term and the longer-term. The Development Partnership Proposal also delivered a viable and sustainable solution that from Day one released the ‘PARTNERSHIP’ from any future property cost responsibilities, provided a $1M windfall profit after five or so years and preserved the 262 heritage building for the Deaf Community into perpetuity.”  Presumably some of this profit could have been channeled towards paying off money that Townsend House has put into the running of the Royal South Australian Deaf Society in the last few years.

It is alleged that Townsend House has received an offer to buy 262. It is believed that this offer is in the vicinity of $3-4 million. I stress that this is the allegation and that no evidence of the allegation has been provided. It is believed that the Townsend House are committed to the sale. This is despite the viable business proposition of the Development Partnership Proposal that is preferred by the Deaf community. Exactly what Townsend House will do with the money raised from any sale to ensure the long term future of the South Australian Deaf community remains unknown at this stage. (Townsend House will argue that it is Deaf Can Do that is making the decisions. The reality is that it is Townsend house in control.)

It seems inevitable that 262 is going to be sold. This will be a sad day for the Deaf community. The decision is particularly hard to stomach in light of the offer from the Development Partnership Proposal that is the Deaf communities preferred option.

All we can do is wait and hope that Townsend House does the right thing. We can but hope that any profits that are made from a sale are channeled back to the long term benefit of the Deaf community and CONTROLLED by the Deaf community.

Given developments that have occurred to date – That does not seem likely – Does it?

CaptiView Survey Conducted via Facebook by Gary Kerridge

Regular readers of The Rebuttal will have read several scathing articles about CaptiView. These articles have been motivated by regular feedback coming from users that they simply do not like the system and that it spoils their viewing pleasure. The Rebuttal has made claims and has been accused of being misleading, ungrateful, stirring trouble and avoiding the facts.

Facts are funny things. For example we were all told that Open Captioning was not possible with the Doermi server. Apparently not so. Apparently there are “Keys” which can be purchased that make Open Captioning possible with the Doremi server. Punters were told that CaptiView was the best technology available to be used with the Doremi system. Well this is not the case now. We know that recent developments have made other devices like the Sony Captioning Glasses and Rear Window Captioning compatible with the Doremi system. All you need is those magical “Keys”.  The Sony Glasses are not yet compatible but The Rebuttal has been in touch with Sony and Sony expect that the Sony glasses will be made compatible with the Doremi system very soon. What this means is that there are OTHER alternatives to CaptiView that Deaf and hearing impaired cinema goers should be allowed to trial these before CaptiView is tied in to all cinemas.

A big concern has been that Audio Description for the Blind and Vision Impaired will be impacted IF Deaf and hearing impaired have their way and get the roll out of CaptiView stopped. The reality is that this need not be the case. The CaptiView device uses the Doremi system. The Audio Description device, known as Fidelio, also uses the Doremi system. Rear Window is compatible with the Doremi system too and what The Rebuttal understands is that if Rear Window were to be part of the trial Audio Description roll out need not be impacted at all. Other technology CAN be used, this is the bottom line.

The final issue is that there are many, many Deaf and hearing impaired viewers that want Open Captions retained in some form. There is strong resistence from the cinemas to this. At first they claimed this was because Open Captions were not comaptible with the Doremi system. This now appears to not be the case and that with right “Key” Open captions are possible. They also claim that “hearing” viewers dont like Open Captioning. This is an assumption that needs to be backed up with research. The other claim is that Open Caption movies in the past were poorly attended. The Counter claim to this is that Open captions were mostly in off peak times, at limited venues and did not provide a choice of movies. There is a lot to be researched before open captions are dismissed off-hand.

Clearly there are many options and The Rebuttal has long said Deaf and hearing impaired people should have a stronger say. To gauge just how people are feeling author of this piece, Gary Kerridge, conducted a small Facebook Survey. The report of this survey can be downloaded here. The findings are interesting indeed. However, they should not be taken as conclusive, rather they should be seen as “preliminary” findings. The Rebuttal hopes people will consider the findings of the survey report and at least use them to guide further surveys and strategy in the roll out of captioning for Deaf and hearing impaired in the cinemas.

To Read Survey Right Click Here on this link, and save to your computer

TRANSCRIPTION: Dimity Dornan Speech, Sydney, on 24 October 2007

The following is a a video of a speech given by Dimity Dornan in the presence of the then Governor-General at Kirribilli House, Sydney, on 24 October 2007 – nearly 4 years ago – where she likens deafness to polio 20 years ago, and claims that very soon hearing loss will be able to be ‘decimated’ as an illness. There is no captions on the video, but thanks to Rachael McQuillan and her husband Lenny, a transcript follows.

The Transcription:

Thank you, your excellency for inviting us to your beautiful home and for launching hear and say worldwide.

It has taken us quite a number of years to get to this point and it is a very exciting moment, and we are very proud to be here.

And I’d like to tell everybody a little bit about why we’re here, um, in detail. Because some of you, I don’t think, will be aware of all of the little bits and pieces that go together to make up what we’re hoping to do with hear and say worldwide.

I’m very honoured to stand in front of you today as we travel into a world of global hearing health, with the official launch of our new export program, hear and say worldwide.

The undertaking by the governor general to support this program is a testament to the importance of hear and say worldwide, and should be  seen as a real indicator of how close we are to the delivery of our vision of being the leader in the provision of access to listening and spoken language for children with hearing loss and their families worldwide.

Hearing loss, as we know, is the most common disability in newborn babies, worldwide, and it’s often diagnosed too late for optimal treatment. And in addition to this sad fact, there are presently only enough trained, uh, listening and speaking professionals to effectively treat 8% of all the children and adults, uh, worldwide with hearing loss. The good news is, today we stand where polio was 20 years ago. Through a combination of newborn hearing screening and most important point, the, our wonderful cochlear implants and digital hearing aids and early auditory verbal intervention we now have the potential to decimate the very serious consequences of hearing loss globally.

Recent research conducted both here in Australia and overseas has shown that the focus for treatment for hearing loss in babies should be on the brain. And that the ear is merely the conduit to the brain. The most urgent implication of this research is that hearing loss in babies is a neurological emergency, because the optimal developmental window for the auditory brain, for learning to listen, develop, and understand speech, closes very early.

This means that early diagnosis and followup intervention is critical to ensure that babies learn to listen, um, and through hear and say worldwide early intervention of our program will assist in alleviating this critical need for appropriately qualified hearing health care professionals and provide much needed teaching resources for this market. For example, we are currently working on a teaching resource for the 15000 children in china who will receive a cochlear implant in the next 5 years. Hear and say worldwide is a systematic approach to building on Queensland and Australia’s brain based economy by exporting knowledge and skills into the international market. Already, we’ve trained professionals in 12 countries over the past 7 years.

This year, we have already worked in Russia, I’ve made presentations in Germany, and Papua New Guinea, where we have a team ready and waiting to help those children who are needing our care. And we’re currently in the process of developing new programs for the malarian markets, and we’re very excited about this opportunity that we may be helping them to set up some cochlear implant programs by training their professionals there. And we have to thank for this the Queensland government, support from AusTrade, and the Australian institute for commercialisation.

A key to our success will be the development of close, strategic partnerships with our major technology providers. And I’m very pleased to recognise Mr Mark Salmon, the president for Asia pacific for cochlear in the audience. However, without the specialised therapy to support these technological devices, sound is just noise, and it is the specialised therapy that gives our hear and say centre children the ability to learn to listen and speak just like other children.

Now, to underpin this work, we have developed our research and development arm, which has it’s official opening shortly, the international hearing innovation centre in Brisbane, where we are combining leading researchers, such as the Queensland brain institute, the centre for cognitive neuroscience, and the centre for magnetic resonance, Australia university’s corporate partners, so that we’re building a hub of hearing research in Queensland to supplement the already great work being undertaken by the hearing collaborative research centre for Australia. Accordingly, they have recently announced their intention to co-locate a Queensland node of the hearing CRC with us at our new international hearing intervention centre in … in Brisbane.

Earlier this year Dr. Ventin Surf one of the co-founders of the internet, introduced hear and say worldwide to the Queensland business community when he stopped over in Brisbane, and he com- he shared with the audience his personal connection to deafness – Both he and his wife are profoundly deaf – and how his family has adopted the policy that no decibel will escape undetected.

[murmurs of laughter from audience]

It is this sort of passion and drive to remove the effects of hearing impairment that has brought us to this point today, where we can finally, officially launch hear and say worldwide, so, with this, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all those people involved in getting us to this point in our journey. I hope they will continue to offer their invaluable assistance as we move further afield with this venture. I’ve very personally excited about what we can achieve with hear and say worldwide, because I believe that there is no better way for us to help the world, than to help people communicate more effectively with each other.

 

Thank you.

 

Thanks to John McGrgeor who brought it to our attention in the Facebook group: 10,000 signatures to have Dimity Dornan prosecuted- Deaf Cultural Genocide