Page 3836 - Week 12 - Thursday, 29 October 2015

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There was some irony and it was a bit funny that Ms Lawder had to stand—hopefully for the last time; it will be the last time—and say, “Can I have leave to have an Auslan interpreter?” while we debate an amendment to the standing orders to allow Auslan interpreters. Hopefully, that is the last time in this parliament that we will have to seek leave for that purpose. Hopefully, it sets us on a path. There is always a financial consideration, a practicality consideration. But if all are to participate, we must give them the pathways to do so. Well done, Ms Lawder, on what you have done today.

MS LAWDER (Brindabella) (11.38), in reply: Statistics provided by the Australian Network on Disability show that in Australia there are approximately 30,000 deaf people who use Auslan, and obviously a proportion of those live in the ACT.

Auslan, is the natural sign language of the Australian deaf community. The name Auslan derives from Australian Sign Language; the term was first coined in the early 1980s by Trevor Johnston, who was the author of the first Auslan dictionary. But the language itself is much older. Auslan evolved from sign languages that were brought to Australia in the 19th century from Britain and Ireland. Its grammar and vocabulary are quite different from English, and it is not the creation of any one person; it is a natural language that has evolved over time. Some other countries have sign language that has evolved from French sign language, so their sign language is considerably different from Auslan, to use just one example, because every country has its own sign language. Auslan was recognised by the Australian government as a community language other than English in policy statements in 1987 and 1991.

I think we all understand and agree that deaf people have the right to participate equally in Australian society, in the economy, in sports, in volunteering and in the arts and cultural activity—indeed, in all facets of life every day. They can participate equally and fully provided communication access is provided to them. For example, one of my staff, Chloe Nash, who is deaf, plays an important role in the running of my office.

This motion, as agreed by the administration and procedure committee, takes having an Auslan interpreter on the floor of the Assembly from being a special privilege granted by the Assembly, or possibly denied, to something that can be used on a more regular basis. That is what communication access should be. Whether members individually choose to take up the option, and for which particular speeches, is up to members. For example, as I said when I opened the debate on this motion, it might be especially appropriate for speeches relating to events of national or territory importance, emergency situations or matters relating specifically to disability matters such as the NDIS.

I will reflect very briefly on Mr Rattenbury’s comments. I did not even want to dignify them with a response. If I were to look at things that Mr Rattenbury put out in media releases, on Facebook or on Twitter, I am sure I would find that there are many instances where what Mr Rattenbury has said is a far greater dig to the opposition than what I said—which was completely, factually and, as Mr Rattenbury said himself, technically correct. It is extraordinary that, in what could have been a celebration of the acceptance of this motion today, Mr Rattenbury chose to demean and diminish the importance of this motion for deaf people by speaking in that way. I find it very disappointing.

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