Today, the High Court of Australia handed down its decision favoring the State of Queensland in discriminating against Ms Lyons.
Ms Lyons alleges that she has been discriminated against by the State of Queensland when it refused to provide her with an Auslan (Australian Sign Language) interpreter so that she can perform her civic duties as a juror.
Ms Lyons has unsuccessfully appealed against the Queensland Court of Appeal decision that there was no discrimination by the State of Queensland.
In a unanimous ruling the High Court states ‘that for a juror to deliberate with other jurors in isolation who requires the assistance of an interpreter is incapable to effectively performing the functions of the juror’.
Deaf Australia believes that this decision will have wider implications against deaf people who need to access Auslan interpreters to communicate articulately and be treated as equal citizens.
‘This is a smack in our face’, says Ms Lyons, ‘it is about the principle of justice and equality for every citizen of Australia and deaf people should not be treated any differently – and the High Court does not see that’.
‘This is an extremely poor outcome … deaf people have long sought equality in Australia’, said Todd Wright, Chairperson of Deaf Australia. ‘This decision may not only impact Queensland, but throughout Australia, bringing into question whether deaf people are treated as equal citizens in Australia’.
The United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which the Australian government ratified in 2008, calls for the recognition of sign languages.
‘It is unfortunate that the High Court has failed to recognise the Convention’, said Kyle Miers, Chief Executive of Deaf Australia. ‘It is time for all states and territories, including the Commonwealth government, to take immediate action to amend their Anti- Discrimination Acts and to remove discrimination in all areas, and more importantly, recognising the right for deaf people to use Auslan’.