Deaf Australia is very proud to congratulate WA deaf woman Drisana Levitzke-Gray on being named Young Australian of the Year for 2015 at the awards ceremony in Canberra yesterday.
Ms Levitzke-Gray, an Ambassador of Deaf Australia, was also announced as the winner of 2015 Western Australian Young Australian of the year late last year for her advocacy work.
‘We are so proud that Drisana has been recognised for the work she has done towards raising awareness about Auslan (Australian Sign Language) and realising human rights of deaf people’, says Todd Wright, President of Deaf Australia. ‘It is our sincere hope that Drisana will be the first of many deaf people receiving this award, and that this will add to her work in inspiring more deaf youth to achieve successes in their own lives also.’
The Australian of the Year Award website describes Ms Levitzke-Gray as a campaigner who is dedicated to helping other deaf people and advocating their human rights. The fifth generation in her family to be born deaf, she was born into a family with deaf parents, a deaf brother and a deaf extended family, and uses Auslan as her first language. She promotes the deaf community as one without borders and one of rich language, culture, history and traditions.
After being selected to attend the Frontrunners international deaf youth leadership course in 2012 and 2013, Drisana worked with communities in Europe and Samoa to expand leadership capacity and human rights understanding of deaf youth. In 2014, Drisana became the first deaf Auslan user to fulfil her civic duty as a juror. Drisana is the embodiment of the concept of ‘deaf gain’, not ‘hearing loss’, inspiring the deaf community, encouraging others to accept diversity and promoting a positive image of deafness which says loudly and proudly: “it is OK to be deaf”.
‘Drisana is an amazing advocate and an inspiration, but she shouldn’t have to be. She should be able to pursue her goals and dreams in the same way any young Australian does without having to constantly advocate and fight for her rights,’ says Kyle Miers, Chief Executive of Deaf Australia, ‘We still have a long way to go to achieve the same rights for Deaf and hard of hearing people in Australia that other people already enjoy.’
‘Drisana’s success and the spotlight it puts on deaf achievements, as well as the inequalities deaf people experience every day, is even more important at this time,’ he says ‘Considering the backward step the Federal Government has taken in the advocacy sector with the defunding of Deaf Australia and other peak advocacy groups just before Christmas.’
Deaf Australia congratulates all of the winners and finalists of the Australian of the Years Awards 2015.