History and Achievements


Deaf Australia history

Deaf Australia was founded in 1986 by a group of Deaf people who felt that more could be achieved by working together as one large group rather than as many smaller groups or in association with organisations not controlled by Deaf people.

In this respect Deaf Australia can be seen as being the first modern national Deaf organisation in Australia.


In 1903, the Australasian Deaf and Dumb Association (ADDA) was founded, an event that drew about 200 Deaf people and their friends. In comparison, modern day events like the Sydney Deaf Festival draw crowds of thousands!

The ADDA had branches in several states for a while, and published a magazine called The Gesture. However, after some years its role was weakened and it remained active only in Victoria. It finally disappeared in the 1920s.

In 1932, the Australian Association for the Advancement of the Deaf (AAAD) was founded. AAAD claimed to be the “only free and independent national Association for the Deaf in Australia”. Their motto at the time was: “The AAAD is of the Deaf, by the Deaf, for the Deaf.”

Establishment of Deaf Australia

After the collapse of AAAD in the late 1930’s there was no national organisation for Deaf people until the establishment of AAD in 1986.

Deaf Australia held its inaugural general meeting on 1 June 1986, and the first Board of Directors was elected from a group of volunteers from all over Australia.

President: Dorothy Shaw (NSW)
Secretary/Treasurer: Bruce Muller (SA)
Board Members: Breda Carty (VIC), Ken Donnell (QLD), Meryl Cook (ACT)

As Bruce Muller stated in a speech at the opening of the National Advocacy Service in 1992:

The Deaf in Australia were beginning to accept that they were a group entitled to a separate identity because of their unique language and culture … and they were entitled to determine their own destiny.


The first Board of Deaf Australia communicated with one another via written correspondence. No funds were available at that time to hold face-to-face meetings and Board members had to pay their own way to get to a Board meeting. Then the Australian Federation of Deaf Societies provided a small grant to Deaf Australia and this helped with some travel costs for Board meetings.

Over the years, the membership of Deaf Australia has grown and Deaf Australia’s financial position has improved. The Deaf Australia Board now meets several times a year.