Hello, do you know where I am now? I am in a theatre dressing room because I am currently performing with the Finnish Deaf Theatre. It is wonderful to be involved in theatre again after a gap of about 20 years.
Theatre is one of my passions. In the past, I worked as a professional actor with the Australian Theatre of the Deaf and also with deaf theatre companies in the United States. So it is great to be involved in theatre again.
Thank you for this opportunity to talk about the Colin Allen Lecture via video. The concept of the Lecture was initiated by Deaf Australia. In recent times, I have been in discussions with Deaf Australia to develop this initiative.
The purpose of the Lecture is to share the different ways that we as deaf people; as members of the Australian Deaf Community have contributed to the collective achievement on behalf of our Community. Contributions highlighted will need to relate to the various roles in which I have been involved in my life, including the New South Wales Deaf Community, Australian Deaf Community as well as the international Deaf Community. Over many years, I have been involved in the Sydney Deaf Community along with my parents and my sister. I have also actively contributed to the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) focusing on the promotion of human rights for deaf people and their families as well as being involved with the International Disability Alliance (IDA) concentrated on promoting the rights of people with disabilities.
I am currently serving as Presidents of both these international organisations, providing support in a voluntary capacity.
In relation to the vision and purpose of WFD focused on Sign Language rights, what needs to be considered is what this means to you and the Australian Deaf Community. This relates to your right to use your sign language, Auslan, and the support, promotion and advancement of deaf people using sign language.
In the past, I was also involved in international development cooperation projects where I worked in third-world or developing countries for nine years, in four different countries. In this role, I was able to see the Deaf Community in each country, in conditions far worse than Australia. The Deaf Community in Australia is very privileged to be able to access services in Auslan, to have a recognised sign language, sign language classes, sign language interpreters and access to information through sign language (Auslan).
The Australian Deaf Community has an organisation “Deaf Australia” which advocates for rights on your behalf to improve the quality of your life. During the time in which I was based overseas, it was very evident that the various Deaf Communities did not have the same privileges as available in Australia. I was involved in building the capacity and support for local Deaf Communities including sign language, sign language interpreters and many other things.
Finally, I have been heavily involved in another community which is an important part of my life and reflects my identity – the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTI) community. During my younger days, I was involved in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and advocated for the provision of a sign language interpreting services as part of the Mardi Gras program. I am proud that this access continues to the present time, even after 30 years.
Each of these different community areas are not about me but about how you as deaf people have contributed to the development and strengthening of the Australian Deaf Community. Through my discussions with Deaf Australia, I recognised that Deaf Australia wanted some way of preserving our history and historical information through sign language. As a result, this lecture was created in my name as a means of providing information for future generations.
I feel it is vital for all deaf people to embrace a sense of pride and self-belief in your Deaf Community, your history, the present and the future of our deaf children in Australia.