September was a quiet month as several of us, including our President Ann Darwin, were overseas on leave. Nevertheless we managed to achieve a great deal over the past three months.
While I was on leave, my husband John and I popped in to visit the World Federation of the Deaf and the Finish Association of the Deaf in Helsinki Finland, where the wonderful Phillipa Sandholm showed us around and introduced us to many people working there.
The WFD, the FAD, and several other organisations in the Finnish Deaf sector, share a building called the Light House, which was specially designed and built for them. It has a canteen in the middle where everyone gathers for lunch and tea breaks and it was wonderful to see so many people from various organisations communicating freely in such a vibrant environment. I do wish we could do something similar here in Australia!
John and I also enjoyed a fabulous sunset dinner with Markku Jokinen at Helsinki’s Savoy roof garden restaurant. It was divine – the food, the views, the service and of course the company and conversation. Thank you Markku for your wonderful hospitality and generosity.
As many members and supporters know, Markku Jokinen is the immediate past president of the WFD and came to Australia in May 2011 where he was keynote presenter at our national conference in Hobart.
Markku is the CEO of the Finnish Association of the Deaf and also President of the European Union of the Deaf, so he’s a very busy man with lots of great information and stories to tell. One thing that is very different in Finland is that the FAD is very well resourced compared to Deaf Australia. Deaf Australia receives just under $200,000 from government each year to cover all of our expenses – the staff, the board, the office, travel etc. The FAD receives many millions of dollars each year from the Finnish Government – in Finland, funds from gambling are distributed to charities. Imagine what Deaf Australia could achieve if we had the same system here in Australia!
There have been some changes to government following the 7 September 2013 federal election. Click here to see the changes that are most revelant to Deaf people.
- Key Priority 1: Early intervention and education
Early Intervention Working Group (Qld)
Attended a meeting of the working group on 20 August and 15 October. The group is currently focussing on developing early intervention protocols, i.e. what elements must a good early intervention program have. In preparation for this, meetings are mainly discussing similar documents from overseas and also the report from our November 2012 early intervention and education summit.
Queensland Forum for Young Children with Hearing Loss
I attended a meeting of the forum on 22 October. At this meeting the group also launched a new Parents Charter, setting out what parents of deaf babies and children want from service providers in the early years.
The Disability Employment Services (DES) section of the Department of Social Services (previously part of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations – DEEWR) has given us $41,000 for a community engagement project about the DES. Fourteen other organisations also received funding. Rachel Byrnes and Rebecca Driscoll are working on this project up to 30 June 2014.
Rachel is holding workshops around the country about the DES; keep an eye out for flyers and announcements on our Facebook page for workshops in your area. These workshops will provide some information about DES but are mainly to gather information from Deaf people about their experiences of DES and what works and doesn’t work for them. This information will be sent to the Department to help them improve the DES.
I attended a meeting in Melbourne organised by Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) on 19 August for organisations getting this funding to discuss possible joint activities as part of our projects. Those of us running workshops for our communities agreed to use a similar format for our workshops and share the feedback with AFDO.
- Key Priority 2: Access to communications
M-Enabling Conference, 14-15 August
I attended the M-Enabling Conference, about mobile technology and people with disabilities, hosted by ACCAN and Telstra in Sydney on 14 and 15 August. It was an excellent conference, with an important key outcome – agreement that Australia needs a law similar to the US 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act 2010 (CVAA). See here for more information about this.
Of interest also, in relation to the CVAA, is the story of how the development and passage of the Act was achieved. The MAA website above includes information about this.
Roundtable with Karen Peltz Strauss
The day before the M-Enabling Conference, Phil Harper organized, and Australian Communication Exchange sponsored, a roundtable meeting of invited people to meet with Karen Peltz Strauss who was one of the keynote presenters at the conference. Karen Peltz Strauss is Deputy Bureau Chief at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the USA, which regulates the CVAA. She has several decades experience working as an advocate for people with disabilities in the communications area (and at one stage worked at Gallaudet University and is a competent signer of ASL). She was the key person developing the CVAA and bringing people together to support it.
Deaf Australia board member (now President) Todd Wright and I attended.
Ms Peltz Strauss gave us some very good advice about advocacy generally and in the communications area in particular. Key messages:
- Work with industry – get industry on-side and then approach government and regulators together with an agreed position.
- Identify clear campaign positions and then bring in other organisations to support your position.
- Cinema captioning: the USA has the same problems we have. The basic problem is that the industry does not want open captions. She believes that the issue will only ultimately be solved with legislation/regulation.
- Key Priority 3: Access to information and media
Roundtable: Political Participation, Inclusion and Decision Making
I attended this roundtable at the University of Sydney on 9 August. It was organised by the Disability Rights Research Collaboration, which is a project of the University of Sydney and People with Disability Australia. The roundtable looked at how we could take new approaches to political participation, inclusion and decision making, particularly in relation to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). I was asked to attend the roundtable and talk about the relevance of particular UNCRPD articles in relation to deaf people. It was a very interesting day involving a mixture of disability advocates and academics.
The roundtable brought out some key themes, and we agreed that we would like to see things move forward by developing a national position statement that national Disabled Persons Organisations and researchers could endorse/sign up to/use in their work. The Disability Rights Research Collaboration team is working on developing this position statement.
Captioning Working Group
The Working Group met on 22 August and issued a communique in September. Working party communiques are on our blog here.
Cathy Clark has been working quietly to build a cordial relationship with industry representatives from the Big 4 cinemas outside of the ACAG framework and is having some success. She met with a representative from the Big 4 and arranged for them to liaise with the Deaf Cinema Club (winner of the Roma Wood Captioning Award 2013) with the view to perhaps having some open captioned movie screenings, initially in Melbourne. This is a massive step forward but there is still a lot of work to be done.
- Key Priority 4: Organisational stability and growth
We had an information booth at the Queensland Deaf Festival organised by QAD and the P&C committee at Toowong State School on 26 October.
ACCAN – EAGER Research project on developing standards for Auslan translations
We are a partner with several other organisations – Macquarie University, Northern Melbourne Institute of Technology (NMIT), Heriot Watt University (Edinburgh, Scotland), Deaf Society of NSW, Vicdeaf and ASLIA – in a project to develop standards for Auslan translations, which has received funding from ACCAN. The project steering committee meets once per month on Skype. The first meeting was held on 1 August.
National forum on ‘Future Relationships’
Late last year, a consultant did a review of Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO), and the resulting report included a number of recommendations. One of these recommendations was that AFDO hold a national forum of organisations representing people with disability (both funded and unfunded) to discuss the best ways to structure representative organisations relationships to ensure that the interests of all disability groups are represented to government.
Some preliminary work on organising a forum occurred earlier this year and gained momentum from July. I attended a teleconference discussion with one of the forum consultants on 26 August in which we discussed a ‘conversation starter’ document that he had produced. I also wrote a document setting out my thoughts on the issues that the forum would be discussing and sent this to all people on the discussion list.
As I was on leave during September, Todd Wright and Kyle Miers represented Deaf Australia at the forum held in Canberra on 18 and 19 September. We have since received the report from the forum.
A working group has been set up to develop a preferred relationships model and Kyle Miers is representing Deaf Australia on this working group. Kyle liaises closely with me on matters the working group is discussing at each meeting. We expect to receive a document very soon that sets out a draft model for discussion with our members. Time for consultations with our members will be very short so please keep an eye out for information from us very soon. The working group is required to send a proposal for a preferred model to the Department of Social Services (previously FaHCSIA) by Christmas.
I met with Chris Mathieson (Vicdeaf) and Brett Casey (Deaf Services Queensland) in Sydney on 13 August to discuss follow up actions from the 25 May Deaf Australia/AFDS workshop. We agreed on the outline for a ‘partnering framework’ for how we could work towards arriving at a Memorandum of Understanding between our two organisations and Chris offered to do more work on it and come back to us with a fleshed out document.
Deaf Society of NSW
Several Deaf Australia board and staff, including myself, attended the International Deaf Festival in Sydney on 19 October. We also attended the afternoon tea at Sydney Town Hall to celebrate the centenary of the Deaf Society of NSW on 20 October. During the afternoon the Deaf Society launched a fabulous new history website. Congratulations DSNSW on reaching 100 years and on a fantastic new resource!
World Federation of the Deaf
Deaf Australia board members and staff were at the 2nd WFD International Conference in Sydney on 17 and 18 October.
Prior to the conference, we hosted three events:
- A Board meeting of the new WFD Regional Secretariat – Oceania on Tuesday 15 October
- The first General Assembly of the WFD Regional Secretariat – Oceania on Wednesday morning 16 October
- A workshop for representatives of WFD Ordinary Members at the State Library of NSW Mitchell Library in the afternoon on 16 October.
All events were a great success and people especially loved the historic State Library venue for the OM workshop. A big thank you to Peter Davies and Danni Wright for looking after the venue and catering arrangements for these meetings.
We are working on developing a new website and it’s looking beautiful, very clean and crisp. We expect it to go live early in 2014.
Since July, meetings have been held approximately each fortnight involving the 4Senses team, our staff and the State Library of Queensland staff, to prepare for the 4Senses event on Friday night 15 November at the State Library of Queensland. All is set for another fabulous and unique music event.