Directions for South Australia – Auslan

“Promoting Auslan is a job for everyone.  It not only increases inclusion in our community, but respects a rich Australian culture that is often forgotten.” – Kelly Vincent MLC

Introduction:

Australian Sign Language or Auslan is the native language for many Deaf and Hard of Hearing people; opening doors and promoting inclusion. While it was recognised as a community language by the federal government in 1991, Auslan has had an oppressed history; often regarded as a language not equal to spoken language. Research today clearly confirms the grammatical, linguistic, cognitive, social and cultural value of Auslan and its equal status as a language.

Babies who are born deaf have the human right to access Auslan and this language option should be clearly presented to the parents or guardians of a deaf child. Many parents and guardians of infants born deaf, or people who become deaf later in life, have rarely or never interacted with the Deaf Community; this can be confronting and confusing unless they have access to appropriate supports and research-based information.

Language deprivation between the ages of 0 and 12 months – leaving language development until after the ability to use assistive technology (generally between 12-18 months) and then only encouraging the use of spoken language – can potentially delay cognitive and speech development.

It is important to debunk the myth that learning signed language will disadvantage an infant’s ability to also learn spoken language. Scientific evidence proves the benefits of bilingualism, particularly for Deaf infants:

“With deaf infants, spoken language + signed language bilingual language learning launches infants on the path to becoming healthy bilinguals with particularly strong spoken language and reading skills” (Petitto, 2017)

The benefits of protecting, promoting and learning Auslan are far reaching; a community that is often marginalised can be recognised, respected and rejoiced for its cultural significance.

Action:

Dignity Party believe that access to Auslan is a human right and should be treated as such.

In South Australia we must:

  • Recognise Auslan and signed language as biologically and culturally equal to that of spoken language
  • Ensure that information about Auslan, the Deaf community and culture are promoted actively throughout South Australia as ratified in article 21 (e) of the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) of which Australia is a signatory
  • Give information based on scientific research about the benefits of Auslan for language and cognitive development to all parents or guardians of infants who ‘fail’ the hearing screening
  • Make sure all those who receive a hearing loss diagnosis are provided with information about Auslan, the Deaf community and culture and that they have the opportunity to investigate linguistic options alongside surgical or assistive technologies
  • Promote the benefit of learning Auslan as part of professional development in workplaces
  • Celebrate the recently established International Day of Sign Languages annually on September 23 to promote learning Auslan and the linguistic identity of the Deaf community
  • Ensure that medical professionals and educators that work in the audiology field have received training outlining the benefits of bilingualism and signed language exposure and the risks of speech, neurological and cognitive delay resulting from early language deprivation.

Dignity Party OPPOSE medical or allied health services advising against the use of Auslan because of the perceived effect it will have on spoken language development

Dignity Party PROPOSE support for parents of children who are Deaf to access Auslan classes, as well as with assistive technologies and speech therapies.