Understanding Auslan signers through the 2022 Deaf Census

Authored by: Gabrielle Hodge, Lee Murray, Darlene Thornton & Jen Blyth
Published: May 2024

Statistics about signing Deaf people and Deaf communities are extremely limited (Christian Blind Mission Australia, 2021; European Union of the Deaf, 2022). The efficient and thorough collection of quantitative data is an urgent priority for Deaf, Deafblind and hard of hearing communities worldwide. Such data is essential for advocacy planning and effective service provision. In Australia, after a decades-long grassroots campaign led by Deaf Australia, the national peak advocacy organisation for Deaf, Deafblind, and hard of hearing Auslan signers, the Australian Bureau of Statistics finally included Auslan as a LOTE (Languages Other Than English) option on the National 2021 Census (Deaf Australia, 2020). This was a major win for the recognition of Auslan on a national level, with an estimated 16,245 people responding they use Auslan at home (ABS, 2021a; Deaf Connect, 2021).

Yet much more detailed information is still required. In 2022, Deaf Australia developed and analysed the first national Deaf Census (Deaf Australia, 2022). The aim was to better understand the access and inclusion experiences of diverse Deaf, Deafblind, Deaf disabled, and hard of hearing people who use Auslan and other signed languages in Australia, as well as any other people who sign. The 2022 Deaf Census was a 30-minute online survey with 85 questions in Auslan and English open to anyone aged 13 years or older. It included basic demographic questions about culture, disability, sexuality, and ethnicity. It also included more complex questions about people’s educational, employment, medical and social experiences, and their language use. The 2022 Deaf Census generated 1,215 responses from across the country, including 846 responses from d/Deaf, d/Deafblind, d/Deaf disabled, and hard of hearing people who use Auslan. Here we summarise these responses and outline how this data can strengthen advocacy and self-determination efforts going forward.

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