Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 11 Hansard (Wednesday, 25 September 2019) . . Page.. 3879 ..
Mr Rattenbury’s amendment to Ms Lawder’s motion. I thank Ms Lawder for bringing forward this important topic for discussion, which is timely, as this week is International Week of the Deaf.
This year marked only the second ever International Day of Sign Languages, a day established by the United Nations to raise awareness of the importance of sign language in the full realisation of the human rights of people who are deaf. The theme for this year is “Sign language rights for all”, and tomorrow’s global activities for International Week of the Deaf are aligned to the sub-theme of sign language rights for deafblind people and deaf people with disabilities.
The motion before us today highlights a very specific issue faced by deaf and deafblind individuals who seek access to services to support their mental health and wellbeing. Deafness is a hidden disability, and those who experience it can often be a marginalised group. In my capacity as Minister for Disability, I am pleased to work with disability service providers to take concrete actions in ensuring that the deaf and deafblind community, like any, are not left behind.
On 21 August 2019 the chief executive of Deaf Australia, Mr Kyle Miers, spoke at the National Press Club and became the first person in the club’s 56-year history to deliver an address entirely in Auslan. Mr Miers spoke about some of the challenges the deaf community face and said that he believed Australia was failing in its charter under the UN convention to provide fully accessible services for people with disability. Mr Miers called upon the Australian government to invest in strengthening the capacity to deliver Auslan-supported programs across a range of areas, including counselling and mental health.
People who are deaf, deafblind or hard of hearing may require Auslan interpreting for medical appointments, including appointments with a psychologist or mental health worker. These services can be accessed currently from the National Auslan Interpreter Booking and Payment Service. There is no charge to the consumer for these services. The service also offers a video remote interpreting service which provides Auslan interpreting via video link in instances where an interpreter is unable to be physically present at the appointment. Again, this service is provided free for medical and health appointments, including appointments with psychologists and mental health workers. As with all Auslan interpreting, this service requires pre-booking, as well as available technology, including suitable video equipment and internet connection.
In the ACT there are currently three providers of Auslan interpreters: Sweeney Interpreting, Auslan Services, and the Deaf Society. We know that as of 2015 there were approximately 60 people in the ACT who used Auslan as their primary form of communication. The Canberra Institute of Technology recently announced an expression of interest for an upcoming Auslan course, and this introductory course will raise awareness of people in the deaf community, its language and culture. I am pleased CIT is gauging the interest of the community in learning Auslan. I expect we will learn more about this course in due course.
There are other avenues for interpreters to be registered. In 2018 the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters, NAATI, replaced