How important is Auslan - Australian Sign Language

Growing up, I did some Auslan at school, but I didn't know what it was until now.

YDAN hosted a half-day workshop at Access Plus WA for us to learn Auslan. This event was for their staff, volunteers and members last week to celebrate International Day for People with Disabilities. A big thanks to Development Disability WA and Development Communities for making this possible.

Years ago, when I was in Primary school, in fact; we learnt a little bit of Auslan so we could sign it to the National Anthem. Little did I know, the actions we did with our hands were actually Auslan language.

What is Auslan?

Have you ever seen the COVID-19 news report, where they always have a person signing on the side next to the person who is talking? Yep, that's an Auslan Interpreter! Auslan is Australian sign language. And over the years as an advocate, I've been fortunate enough to meet some people that are deaf or hard of hearing that use this language in their everyday life.

There are many people that know Auslan language, not just those that are disabled. Family and possibly friends of people that are deaf, hard of hearing or mute and Auslan interpreters. Auslan Interpreters aren't just the people that you see on your television screens or at events, but they can also be support workers for those that are deaf, hard of hearing or mute, these people can also help you through your NDIS support package and so much more.

Many people interpret these folks as being famous because they are on television, but in fact, they are just doing their job for those that need this.

Learning a new language is quite difficult for me, as many people can relate to. With my type of Cerebral Palsy, I talk a little bit slower than everyone else and sometimes not easy to understand, and this is why it is difficult for me to learn a new language. Auslan was a lot easier for me to learn then other languages, with my type of CP I also have bad fingers (lack in motor skills). Auslan can be adapted easily for each individual's needs if they struggle to do it the 'normal' way. In my case my support worker, Oakly, helped me with adapting the Auslan language to suit my own needs as a disabled person.

Image description: A white background with the words, "How important is Auslan Australian Sign Language?" written in black bold writting on top of the page. Underneath is two pink (skin colour) hands making "O" with their thumb and pointer fingers.

How can you help?

  • Always ask how they would like to be communicated to – Auslan is one way of doing this, but another way is through text (both of you have a white board, paper or device to communicate with through written words). Not everyone has the same way of communication.

  • Learn the Auslan language as a business/company/organisation – With doing this, you can hire an Auslan Interpreter for the person that is deaf, hard of hearing or mute so it's easier for them to work for you or within the organisation. Please ask before, rather than assuming they will need one.

  • Learn Auslan for yourself – If you know someone or stumble into someone who uses Auslan it will be much easier for you to know Auslan and to communicate through that, rather than something else. Please keep in mind that not everyone who is deaf, hard of hearing or mute knows the language, and they might even prefer a different way to communicate with you.

  • Auslan language is different to Australian English – People that use Auslan in their everyday life and not know English, might not be able to understand the words that are on the paper in front of them.

  • Follow advocates online that are deaf, hard of hearing or mute – With doing this you will be able to learn more about their stories.

  • If you are interested in learning more about Auslan, I would highly recommend that you watch the mini-series Deaf U, or you can go to TAFE to learn some Auslan Click here.

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