Category: Archives

*Public Announcement* Auslan Interpreters must be shown on broadcasts

Late last year, during the announcement of the results of the Same Sex Marriage Postal Survey, Channels 7, 9 and 10 failed to include the ABS’ Auslan interpreter in the screenshot continuously. Deaf Australia wrote to each of the Broadcasters to convey that we thought it was a deliberate and disrespectful act in excluding specific members of the Australian Community. We informed them that we would make complaints against the broadcasters. Several members of the deaf community also said they would join Deaf Australia to make a complaint.
Julia Mansour, Senior Solicitor from the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, has provided legal assistance to Deaf Australia to conciliate with FreeTV, who represents all commercial free to air licensees, to address the failure of the Networks to show Auslan interpreters on screen.
FreeTV, the peak body for the commercial networks, has now agreed to amend their Advisory Notes. The note ‘Portrayal of People with Disabilities’ will now read:
‘Whenever Auslan interpreters are present at a broadcast event, consider whether it is practicable to clearly include them within the frame.’
The Advisory Note ‘Emergency Information Broadcasts’will now read:
Where an Auslan interpreter is present at a news conference, official briefing regarding an emergency, or a public announcement of national significance and other events, licensees will include the Auslan interpreter in the frame. While there may be exceptional circumstances where inclusion of an interpreter is not practicable, licensees will take all reasonable steps to ensure that interpreters are included in the camera shot and in a manner where they can be clearly seen.’
What this means is that broadcasters know they will include need to include interpreters and will not cut interpreters off from the screen shots. This includes editing of videos. If broadcasters exclude interpreters, individuals can lodge complaints with the Australian Human Rights Commission or the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
In the next 6 and 12 months, Deaf Australia will be providing ongoing feedback to FreeTV from its members about this issue and will hear back from FreeTV about any initiatives in regard to trainings of its member networks. If you see an Auslan interpreter cut out of a television broadcast, get in touch and let us know.
Mr Todd Wright, Chairperson of Deaf Australia, said it is ‘a commonsense approach to an inclusive broadcast so that Auslan users can obtain information in their preferred language’ and is appreciative that representatives of, FreeTV, have‘listened to the deaf community’.
Deaf Australia would like to express appreciation and gratitude to the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and to individual members of the Deaf Community for their support.
Additional References:

**Media Release** Serious Matters – Review of Deaf Education

Deaf Australia welcomes the Victorian Education Minister’s sweeping review of Victorian College of the Deaf (VCD), the state’s oldest deaf school. It supports the parents and students of VCD in their efforts to achieve best possible education outcomes in a respectful and supportive bilingual and bicultural environment.
Deaf Australia regrets that a lack of appropriate government oversight has allowed the discriminatory practices at VCD to continue unchecked, and that they have been exposed only as a result of the determination and desperation of school parents.

Unfortunately, this situation is not unique. All over Australia, deaf children’s education has been compromised by a lack of quality teachers, resources, interpreters, and curricula.

Deaf Australia has been working to address this national issue for many years and provided relevant reports: ‘Early Intervention & Education for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children – Addressing challenges in pursuit of better outcomes’(2013) and Policy (advice) on the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) for Deaf People in Australia(2014).

The World Federation of the Deaf has recently released its Position Paper on Inclusive Education which highlights limitation of the current model of education for deaf learners and called for systemic changes.

 ‘The fact that Victoria College of the Deaf has discouraged deaf students from participating VCE is abhorrent and unacceptable, and this highlights the inability of its leadership to ensure successful outcomes for deaf students’, said Mr. Todd Wright, Chairperson of Deaf Australia, ‘Inadequate education seriously limits students’ career opportunities’.  

According to Mr. Kyle Miers, Chief Executive of Deaf Australia, the lack of resources, quality teachers and appropriate support for deaf children is widespread. Government policy must be strongly enforced to ensure that every deaf child is given every opportunity to succeed. ‘A failure to do so amounts to negligence and must be held accountable,’he added.

A lot has changed in 10 years where Auslan (Australian Sign Language) is gaining stronger merits than it previously did and coupling with revitalization of other minority languages, such as, introduction of Auslan as LOTE in primary and secondary schools and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The last review of deaf education in Victoria was over 10 years ago.

Deaf Australia anticipate that the impending review of VCD by the Victorian Minister for Education will promote discussion of many issues affecting deaf children throughout Australia. We hope that the resolution of those issues through consultation, reviews of proficiency standards for teachers, improved resources and well-considered supports will result in the best possible education outcomes for deaf children.

Mr Colin Allen, AM – Honoured

Deaf Australia is proudly to announce that Mr. Colin Allen, former President of Deaf Australia (then Australian Association of the Deaf) and an Honorary Life Member of Deaf Australia has been made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2018 Queen’s Birthday Honors in his dedication to the deaf community both in Australia and internationally.
Mr. Allen has been awarded for ‘significant service to people who are deaf or hard of hearing through national and international leadership and advocacy roles.’
His service includes:

  • Deaf Australia (President for 11 years);
  • Deaf Society of NSW (Director of Services and Community Engagement);
  • International Disability Alliance (IDA) (chair and vice chair);
  • World Federation of the Deaf (presently President serving 2ndterm and board member);
  • Finnish Association of the Deaf (organisational advisor);
  • Australian Deaf Gay and Lesbian Association;
  • New South Wales Association of the Deaf; and
  • Actor – Australian Theatre of the Deaf and Finnish Theatre of the Deaf.

Mr. Allen also receive numerous awards:

  • Community Colleges Australia Award for Outstanding Contribution by an Individual to the Community Education Section, Community Colleges Australia 2013;
  • Grand Cross Award, World Federation of the Deaf, 1999;
  • Dorothy Shaw Deaf Australian of the Year, 1999;
  • Deaf Citizen of the Year, New South Wales Association of the Deaf, 1993; and
  • Queen Elizabeth Silver Jubilee Award for Young Australians, 1979.

This award means that Colin will be known as Mr. Colin Allen, AM.
Deaf Australia wishes to congratulate Colin for this award in a well-deserved recognition of his achievement and outstanding contribution to the deaf community.

**Media Release** Last Call – Suspend the tender of the National Relay Service

Deaf Australia calls on the Government to suspend the tender process for the delivery of the National Relay System citing inadequate consultation with user groups. Today is a final day for Request for Tender (RFT) for the delivery of the National Relay Service commencing in January 2019.

The Federal Government has submitted that the National Relay Service is merely a ‘safety-net’ for its users who have access to “new and emerging mainstream technologies”.  A submission which contradicts the NRS consumers’ view that National Relay Service is an ESSENTIAL service – as such, all services must be 24/7, including the Video Relay Service. Instead, the government wants deaf, deafblind, hard of hearing and people with speech impairment to use the National Relay Service as an ALTERNATIVE to unproven and untested ‘mainstream technology’.
Communication is an essential right for everyone; yet it seems that Government believes that deaf, deafblind, hard of hearing and people with speech impairment do not need to have the same rights as everyone else’– said Mr Kyle Miers, Chief Executive of Deaf Australia. ‘Deaf people who use sign language need the equivalency of full access to communication using the Video Relay Service which currently operates on limited hours. The present tender offers no assurances whatsoever that this will be the case.
At the recent Senate Estimate, the Department of Communication advised Senator Steele-John that a change of regulation to use ‘mainstream communication’ will be expected to be introduced in end of June to mid-July 2018.
‘During the one and only consultation, the Department advised that the mainstream communication will have no bearing on the National Relay Service, yet it plays a significant part in the provisioning of the National Relay Service’, said Mr Miers. ‘To have this tender close BEFORE the approval of the regulation is like ‘putting the cart before the horse’ and leaves no choice for Parliamentarians but to approve it.’
‘12,000 signatures collected on a petition on clearly shows that the Government and the Department of Communications has failed to listen, consult and accommodate our needs’ said Mr Miers.
Deaf Australia and NRS users are very concerned that the Government and the Department of Communication are risking lives with no assurance of equivalency of full access and the use of unproven and untested mainstream communication as preferred methods.
For these reasons, Deaf Australia calls on the Government and the Department to suspend the tender process until the Government and the Department properly consult with NRS users and peak organisations to create an NRS Service level obligations that satisfies everyone.

Media Release – 31 May 2018

**Media Release** Users challenge the Government on NRS’s Future as Equal Access Service

Today (24 April, 2018), the National Relay Service (NRS) users called their MP to express their service concerns in the Australian Government’s Request for Tender (RFT) for the next National Relay Service contract, a service that will see NRS slip from the world best to potentially the world world’s worst relay service.
Last week on the ABC’s Q and A, Minister for Communication and the Arts, Mitch Fifield, declared that “a range of options … many of those free or at no cost” will be a viable means for National Relay Service users. This dynamic shift means that the government expects that those options should be considered an important alternative to the National Relay Service as a cost saving strategy.
The NRS Coalition demands the Australia government provide evidence that those free or cheap options are tested and proven technologies before introducing to the NRS. To date, this evidence has not been provided to the NRS Coalition.
WhatsApp, Messenger, online chat and other various mainstream communication applications are all non real-time communication technologies and cannot duplicate nor replicate telecommunication equivalency that NRS users require – that is, real-time service.
With a reduction from the current cost of delivering the service from $32M to a cap of $22m per annum and increase reliance on mainstream communications provides no guarantee of a 24/7 service that NRS users require”, says Kyle Miers, spokesperson for the NRS Coalition. “Evidence to support alternative means is lacking and is in no way an assurance for NRS users to trust this tendering process.”
NRS Coalition calls for the Government to provide evidence that mainstream communications will replicate the National Relay Service in its ‘real-time’ functionalities. If it does not, then the Government is discriminating NRS users from the equivalency on a 24/7 basis.
NRS Coalition has established a petition on that calls the government to cease the tendering process to ensure that our assurances are met. The petition is on track to obtain 2,000 supporters.
For further information about NRS Coalition’s position, please visit
[minimal_icon style=”download” url=”” target=”_self” lightbox_content=”” lightbox_description=””][/minimal_icon]Media Release 24 April 2018

**MEDIA RELEASE ** ‘National Relay Service will deliver what Australia needs’ pledges minister.

Minister for Communications and the Arts, in response to an Australian Sign Language video question on the ABC’s Q and A program last night, pledged that Australians who are deaf, deafblind, hearing and/or speech impaired will have the service they need when the Government implements the next National Relay Service (NRS) contract.

The question, submitted by Deaf Australia CEO Kyle Miers, on behalf of coalition of NRS user organisations, asked Minister Fifield how the government would be able to assure the NRS community that no services would be cut back given that the current cost of providing the NRS is in excess of $32 million per annum and the recently released NRS request for tender has capped the service funding at $22 million per annum for the next 3 years. Questioning how a 30% reduction in funding can ensure that the services will continue on a 24/7 basis.
While Minister Fifield stated that there are new and merging mainstream technologies that many NRS users may be able to access instead of relying on the NRS, Mr Miers has today said, “People with disability are already using mainstream technologies as a first choice”, adding “the high usage of NRS services indicates that there are no adequate mainstream services suitable for many NRS users’. The NRS service with the highest take-up is captioned telephony where a hard-of-hearing person speaks their part of the conversation and reads the text of the other person’s response in addition to using their residual hearing. Mr Miers pointed out that there is no mainstream equivalent service for these NRS users and that few alternative technologies provide the real-time equivalence of a phone call.
Mr Miers also said that Minister Fifield incorrectly stated that the NRS has always been funded at $22 million per annum. “The $22 million funding cap was introduced in the current contract. Previously, the NRS was funded on a cost-recovery basis funded by the NRS levy impost on Telecommunications providers” said Mr Miers, noting that the Government has covered the funding shortfall in part from a drastic reduction in the NRS outreach service. Mr Miers asserts that “The NRS, as an essential communications bridge for many Australians with disability, needs to be provided on a cost-recovery basis and not capped at some arbitrary amount”.
In a follow-up question on the Q and A program Mr Miers asked Minister Fifield if he would pledge on National television that NRS users would not be worse -off as a result of the current tender process. The Minister answered in the affirmative, pledging that NRS users would have the service they need.
Mr Miers and the NRS community will be pressing the Government to ensure that it delivers on the Ministers pledge.

**Media Release** Australian Government signs off tender for a substandard National Relay Service

Australia’s National Relay Service (NRS) has been one of the world’s best relay services since 1995 however, on 4 April 2018, the Australian Government released a Request for Tender (RFT) for the next NRS contract, a tender that will see the NRS slip from the world’s best to potentially the world’s worst relay service.

Consumers who are deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind or who have speech impairment rely on the National Relay Service as a natural bridge to vital services and the wider community. The Government now sees the NRS as a ‘safety-net’ rather than the equivalent phone service for consumers with disability as it has traditionally been.
Australia’s NRS consumer organisations have repeatedly made key recommendations to improve the NRS however; it appears that none of those recommendations have been incorporated into the Government’s recently released tender documents.
In 2016-17, the actual cost of operating the National Relay Service was close to $32m a year. The RFT proposes a $22m per annum cap on the service for the three years of the new contract. This does not support the recommendations made by consumer organisations in which the NRS needs to be funded on a cost recovery basis.
While access to emergency services remains a 365 days/24 hours requirement, the RFT does not stipulate operating hours required for all other services. This puts at risk those current relay services which are operating at 365/24 and critically ignores the recommendation that Auslan Video Relay become a 365/24 service.
The Outreach Program, a vital community education and NRS training program, dramatically de-funded in 2017 and will not be reintroduced in the next NRS contract.
Additionally, the new contract will require all deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind and who have speech impaired relay users to register to use the NRS, however, people wanting to contact these relay users will not need to register to use the service. Many NRS users believe this is a breach of fundamental disability anti-discrimination principles – requiring only people with disability register in order to access an essential service.
Kyle Miers, Chief Executive of Deaf Australia, said ‘The Government and Department of Communications took no notice of consumer’s concerns with the essential service’, adding ‘the new National Relay Service will not address the issues of isolation and social exclusion’.
Australian NRS users call on the Government to ensure the NRS of the future does not decrease their access to this vital service.
To view consumer’s recommendations, please visit this link (

**Media Release 23 March, 2108** Deaf Jurors – Yes, we can – BUT …

The article ‘Justice is blind as long it isn’t deaf: excluding deaf people from jury duty – An Australian human right breach’ has won the inaugural Andrea Durbach Award for Human Rights Scholarship, which is accompanied by an award of $1000. All articles published in the Australian Journal of Human Rights in a given year are eligible, and recipients of the award are determined by the Editorial Board of the Australian Journal of Human Rights.
The authors of the article are Prof. David Spencer, Ms. Mehera San Roque, Prof. Sandra Hale and Prof. Jemina Napier, who have carried out a comprehensive research into deaf citizens as jurors since 2012 with the University of New South Wales, funded by an Australia Research Council Linkage Project.
Presently, deaf people cannot serve as members of the jury because the Jury Act in each state/territory prohibits the presence of an interpreter in the jury deliberation room as this would constitute a “13th person” in the room.  However, the published research has shown that deaf people who use Auslan can perform just as well as other peers in mock trial cases and that competent and ethical interpreters do not interfere with the jurors’ deliberations.
‘Are deaf people equal citizens in Australia?  No’, said Mr. Kyle Miers, Chief Executive of Deaf Australia, ‘unless the Jury Acts are amended to allow ‘reasonable adjustment’ in accordance with the Disability Discrimination Act, to enable deaf people to perform their role as a juror, then we will be equal in eyes of the law’.
‘Deaf people have long sought equality in Australia,’ said Mr. Todd Wright, Chairperson of Deaf Australia, ‘this award will help raise awareness about Deaf Australia’s Jury Rights for All campaign to achieve this realisation’.
The Australian Journal of Human Rights Editorial Board said: ‘This article presents rigorous and innovative research that links directly with important contemporary human rights law and policy questions. It is original, carefully crafted and clearly argued, deftly marrying legal and non-legal research methodologies. The authors contribute to a discussion of legal and policy reforms that would improve respect for human rights in an less-heralded, but important, area.’
The authors of the article have donated the prize money to Deaf Australia’s Jury Rights for All campaign and Deaf Australia wishes to congratulate the authors for their contribution and thanks the Editorial Board for recognising the authors’ contribution to this important human rights campaign.
On related notes: ACT Legislative Assembly passed new law on Tuesday this week that people with disabilities are no longer automatically exempted from jury duty in Canberra.
To donate to this campaign, please go to
About the Award:
The Andrea Durbach Award for Human Rights Scholarship was established by the Australian Human Rights Journal in 2017. The prize is name in honour of Professor Andrea Durbach, in recognition of her significant service to human rights. The prize is awarded annually to an author/s whose work has been published in the Australian Journal of Human Rights, and whose article reflects the values that have long resonated in Andrea’s career and scholarship. These include the courage to push the boundaries of human rights debates; the creativity to examine issues that cut across different academic disciplines and a desire to press for human rights accountability to ensure that the voices that are not always heard can be magnified.

Call for applications to join the Committee of Graphic Designers Responsible for Evaluating Deaf Flag Designs

The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) set up a “Deaf Flag Committee” at the General Assembly in 2015 (Istanbul, Turkey), composed of five members: France, Iran, Nepal, Russian Federation and Sweden.
The Deaf Flag Committee is leading a process, which aims at selecting one or more Deaf Flag design proposals for the WFD General Assembly 2019 in Paris, France, to be voted by the delegates.
As part of this process, the Deaf Flag Committee, supported by the WFD Board, is now seeking expressions of interest from those interested in serving in a Committee of Graphic Designers. Note that a nomination for this Committee of Graphic Designers will need to be put forward and supported by a WFD Ordinary Member (in this case endorsed by the board of Deaf Australia Inc).
Committee of Graphic Designers will be responsible for:

  • Preparing the call for Deaf Flag designs; including size, format, submission requirements and evaluation criteria (expected to take place between mid-February and mid-March 2018)
  • Call for Deaf Flag Design (expect to open by end of March 2018 until end of September 2018)
  • Evaluating the Deaf Flag design proposals (expected to take place in October-December 2018)
  • Establishing a digital / social media platform to permit WFD Ordinary Members to exchange and provide feedback on the designs. (expected to take place in October 2018-December 2018)
  • Choosing one or more design proposals for the WFD General Assembly vote (July 2019) in Paris, France basing its decision on its own evaluation and on the feedback received through social media. (expected to take place in October 2018-December 2018)

Each WFD Ordinary Member can propose one person to serve in a voluntary capacity, for a period of February 2018 – July 2019 in the Committee of Graphic Designers. The requirements for the Committee members are as follows:

  • Qualified and experienced graphic design specialist
  • Lived experience as a member of the Deaf Community
  • Competency in International Sign

To nominate an individual for the Committee of Graphic Designers, the Ordinary Member is required to provide the following:

  1. A duly filled and signed form (Appendix A)
  2. CV of the nominee
  3. Nominee’s Letter of motivation both in English and International Sign (video)
  4. Portfolio of work from the nominee, including selected examples of design work, preferably via a weblink.

Applications should be submitted to [email protected] by 23 January 2018.

Please note that this is a VOLUNTEER role.
To view an international sign video about this, please click here. Please note that this video is password protected – please use the password: Deafflag to view.

VALE – Jan Branson

Deaf Australia wish acknowledge the contribution from Dr Jan Branson who recently passed away after long battle with her health.

Dr. Jan Branson (and Emeritus Professor Des Power AM who passed away few years ago) were instrumental member of the Australian Association of the Deaf’s (now known as Deaf Australia) Auslan Advisory Board (AUSLAB) whose role was to persuade government in 1991 to recognise Auslan as a Community Language.
Several deaf members (Dr. Breda Carty, Dr. Donovan Cresdee, Dr. Robert Adam) of this advisory board have gone on to receive doctorate degrees (linguistics and history) and are currently involved the deaf community.
I had a great pleasure working with Dr Jan Branson and the members of the AUSLAB in advocating for inclusion of Auslan as a community language, said former President of Australian Association of the Deaf and current president of World Federation of the Deaf, Mr. Colin Allen, ‘Through Jan and others, I have been inspired to promote Auslan (and sign language) in Australia and globally’.
Dr Jan Branson is one of the founders in establishing the National Institute of Deaf Studies (NDIS) at LaTrobe University which saw hundreds of deaf people obtaining Auslan as Language other than English (LOTE) in their Bachelor of Education.
As Jan’s health was deteriorating she left LaTrobe University in its peak, unfortunately, the funding for NDIS has ceased and the program has since been closed.
Dr Jan Branson is a staunch supporter of Auslan and deaf education and is evident through her involvement with Deaf Australia, LaTrobe Univeristy and the deaf community. Deaf Australia take this opportunity to express our sincere appreciation for Jan’s support in realising the rights of deaf people to use Auslan.
Jan, thank you. You have left a legacy in the Australian Deaf Community. We extend our deepest sympathy to her family.
Funeral Details: Family and friends are invited to attend a Service to Celebrate the Life of Dr Jan Branson being held at Tuckers Chapel, 68-74 Hope Street, Geelong West on Wednesday 10 January at 1pm prior to a private cremation.
(Image source: VicDeaf website)

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