English Text: About Colin
Colin Allen AM was born Deaf to Deaf parents, Alfred and Margaret ‘Margo’ Allen in Sydney. He attended the North Rocks School for the Deaf, Sydney from 1965 to 1977. Colin graduated with a Diploma in Community Organisations from the University of Technology, Sydney in 1997. Colin has an older Deaf sister, Julia Allen. All his family members have been very active within the NSW and Australian Deaf Community, through the Deaf Community Centre and the Deaf Sports Community. He is proud of both his granddaughter, Hailey and his daughter Tara, who is currently a sign language interpreter in London, United Kingdom.
Colin's contribution to the Deaf Community in NSW and Australia has encompassed a wide range of areas over many years. He discovered his passion when he became an amateur actor with the NSW Theatre of the Deaf when he was 13, which led him to co-found the Australian Theatre of the Deaf in 1979. He then became a professional actor from 1979 to 1985, performing in over 50 productions. He worked in the USA with the Fairmount Theatre of the Deaf (Ohio) and Sunshine Too Touring with the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (New York) and was also a Conference Director of the National and World-wide Deaf Theatre Conference with the National Theatre of the Deaf (Connecticut).
Colin also appeared on Australian Television during 1975–1999 on several programmes including ARVO, Jam Sandwich, Go Health, The Ray Martin Midday Show, Simon Townsend's Wonderworld, Good Morning Sydney, Good Morning Australia, SCOOP, ABC – GP and Deafness Awareness Week - The Same World. He was also a Sign Language Newscaster on the SBS evening news.
Upon his return from the USA, Colin became involved in the health arena, functioning as AIDS Education Officer for a health education programme initiated by the Deaf Society of NSW and later operated by the AIDS Council of NSW. Under his purview, a number of resources were created in Auslan, including a video "AIDS – Not Hearing Aids!" which was acclaimed worldwide, and a comic "Deaf Streetwize," which highlighted Deaf culture and everyday Deaf Community life. Colin also coordinated the HIV/AIDS National Project for the Australian Deaf Community.
Colin was involved in lobbying to ensure that Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras events were accessible through the provision of Auslan interpreters. This included acting as a sign language consultant and coordinating sign language interpreters, both Deaf and hearing, for interpreted dance performances at the Sydney Showground. One of his favourite memories was a performance of the song "Can't Stop the Music" by the original the Village People during the Mardi Gras Dance Party. Colin and his previous partner were also featured in the documentary "Sunday Soiree" in which they related their experiences being Deaf and Gay, belonging to both the Deaf and Gay and Lesbian communities, and confronting the discrimination and oppression characteristic of the early 1980s.
In addition, when Auslan interpreters were first provided for theatre shows, Colin not only acted as a sign language consultant but also co-ordinated ticket sales, enabling Deaf theatregoers to enjoy Auslan interpreted theatre presented by the Sydney Theatre Company and Opera House. At that time, everything was done by post, including handling cash - so different to the online operations of today!
Colin has also taught numerous community courses in NSW and Australia, both general Auslan courses and those tailored to future professional interpreters.
His extensive voluntary involvement with the Deaf Community has included:
1975 – 1979 Board Member and Treasurer, NSW Theatre of the Deaf
1986 – 1995 Board Member and Treasurer, Stanmore Deaf Recreation Club
1986 – 1989 President, NSW Gay and Lesbian Association of the Deaf
1986 – 1990 President, Australian Gay and Lesbian Association of the Deaf
1986 – 1992 Board Member, Treasurer and President, NSW Association of the Deaf (now Deaf Australia [NSW])
1987 – 1994 Board Member and President, Australian Association of the Deaf (now Deaf Australia)
1987 – 1994 Board Member, Australian Theatre of the Deaf
1987 – 1994 Board Member, The Deaf Society of NSW (now The Deaf Society)
1996 – 1999 President, Australian Association of the Deaf (now Deaf Australia)
1996 – 1999 Board Member, The Deaf Society of NSW (now The Deaf Society)
Between 1986 and 1992, under Colin’s stewardship of the NSW Association of the Deaf (Deaf Australia [NSW]), the annual Deaf Festival was inaugurated with a Deaf Pride Festival (following an earlier Deaf Festival in Brisbane). This first festival was held in a small park and now has become an important event in the annual calendar of the Deaf Community around Australia.
In 1987, Colin served as a Board member of the Australian Association of the Deaf (now Deaf Australia) for a year and then became President for a nine-year period between 1987–1994 and 1996 – 1999. During Colin’s leadership, the following milestones were achieved:
- The first national Deaf youth camp (1990)
- Representation of the Australian Association of the Deaf at the World Federation of the Deaf General Assembly and World Congress in Japan (1991)
- Government funding which facilitated the establishment of a national Secretariat (1992)
- Establishment of a National TTY Relay Service and an equipment distribution program
- Co-ordination of annual National and State Deafness Conferences
- Establishment of the National Relay Service - with Deaf Australia spearheading the campaign (1995)
- Hosting of the XIII World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), Brisbane (1999)
Colin has had the opportunity to advance the human rights of Deaf people and, more broadly, persons with disability, for over 35 years by actively participating politically, professionally and socially in the disability sector.
In 2003, Colin was elected as a board member of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) and in July 2011 became President, the first Australian to occupy this role. In July 2015, he was re-elected for a second term until July 2019.
During his term as board member, he volunteered to develop and finalise global survey reports for the WFD Board including ‘Survey Results on the Status of the National Associations of the Deaf (December 2008),’ ‘Summary Results of WFD Action Plan (November 2010)’ and ‘2014 Survey of WFD Ordinary Members’ (October 2014). In addition, he chaired the following WFD committees:
- Human Resources
- Human Rights
- World Congress
- Membership Application Review
Colin has led numerous workshops for Deaf communities in the USA, Eastern Europe, Middle Asia, Asia and the Pacific, South America, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, Eastern and Southern Africa, Western and Central Africa and Arabian States to promote WFD's work, Deaf people, Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
Between September 2000 and May 2007, Colin worked for the Finnish Association of the Deaf on capacity building projects for Deaf communities in Albania, Cambodia, and Kosovo, and conducted a situational analysis of Deaf communities in Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Turkey. From 2007 to 2009, he was the International Project Co-ordinator for the Global Education Pre-Planning Project on the Human Rights of Deaf People, conducting regional survey work about Deaf people in Eastern Europe, Middle Asia, Asia and the Pacific, South America, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, Eastern and Southern Africa, Western and Central Africa, and the Arabian States.
From late 2009 to June 2013, Colin worked as the Director of Services and Community Engagement of the Deaf Society (NSW) in Sydney, and was responsible for the delivery of services across Community Services, Adult Education, Employment, Sign Language Interpreting, and Advocacy and Community Development domains. During the same period, he was Acting Chief Executive Officer for the Tasmanian Deaf Society and for the Deaf Society. Between July 2013 and February 2016, he was the Access and Community Engagement Consultant for the Deaf Society, in which capacity he advocated to Government departments for information to be provided in Auslan.
In 2011, Colin became a board member of the International Disability Alliance (IDA). In 2013, he became Second Vice Chair; in 2015, First Vice Chair; and in 2016, Chair, a position he occupied for two years.
During his involvement with WFD and IDA, Colin played a key role in guiding and representing WFD and IDA's engagement with the UN System and other international human rights and international development organisations. His commitment to human rights was exemplified through representing IDA at the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities session meetings in Geneva; at Annual State Parties' Conferences of CRPD; at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul; at the United Nations High Level Meeting on Disability and Development in New York; at the 2016 UN Social Forum in Geneva; and at the 22nd APEC High Level Forum on Disability in Beijing, China. He also led 22 representatives from organisations of persons with disabilities as part of the Major Groups and Other Stakeholders delegation at the High Level Political Forum [HLPF] on Sustainable Development in July 2016 and attended the HLPF again in July 2017. In addition, Colin represented IDA and was involved in the inaugural Global Action on Disability [GLAD] Network meeting in London  as co-Chair, a role he also undertook at GLAD events in Berlin  and Helsinki .
He has been closely engaged with the implementation of the 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Disability, including leading IDA's strategic approach to awareness raising, capacity building and participation of persons with disabilities in the preparatory processes towards national reviews. Under his leadership, IDA's mission was to ensure that the UN upheld the essential, unifying principle of the disability movement: 'nothing about us without us.' This included implementing standards on full inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities, notably ensuring accessibility of decision-making spaces and documentation, meaningful participation in follow-up and review processes, and universal design throughout programme implementation.
Colin has also addressed international and national conferences as keynote presenter and has presented workshops on issues related to human rights for both the Deaf Community and for persons with disability in more than 70 countries.
The WFD and IDA roles were honorary positions with all work undertaken on a voluntary basis.
In July 2019, Colin established a business - CALLSign Training and Consultancy Services - with the goal of delivering results-oriented training on human rights, Deaf identity and awareness, organisational development, leadership and interpreting and translation.
Since December 2019, Colin is the Visiting Lecturer at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He is faculty in the NTID Department of Liberal Studies, which is preparing an undergraduate program focused on Deaf Leadership and Management, including coursework on the human rights of Deaf and hard of hearing people. Colin is also a contributor to the Center for International Educational Outreach, where he is shepherding development of a Global Readiness Leadership Program.
English Text: Awards
In 1979, when Colin was seventeen, he received the Queen Elizabeth Silver Jubilee Award for Young Australians, which included a scholarship to assume the role of professional actor with the Australian Theatre of the Deaf. A few years later, Colin received the State Award 1993 Deaf Citizen of the Year from the NSW Association of the Deaf, a state branch of the Australian Association of the Deaf, for his voluntary contributions to the NSW Deaf Community.
In 1999, he received the distinguished award Dorothy Shaw Deaf Australian of the Year from the Australian Association of the Deaf (now Deaf Australia) for his voluntary tenure as the President for over nine years and for his organisation of the XIII World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf in Brisbane, Queensland.
In 2013, he received the Community Colleges Australia Award in recognition of Outstanding Contribution by an Individual to the Community Education Sector, Community Colleges Australia.
Colin also has received numerous appreciation awards for his service to:
- Australian Deaf Gay and Lesbian Association
- Rainbow Association of the Deaf (US)
- Albanian National Association of the Deaf
- British Deaf Association
- Ferizaj Association of the Deaf
- Kosovar Association of the Deaf
- Singaporean Association for the Deaf
- Tasmanian Council of Deaf People
Colin is also an Honorary Life Member of Deaf Australia and the Deaf Society. In 2013 and 2015, he was a finalist in the NSW Government Human Rights Awards.
In 2018, Colin was made a Member of the Order of Australia in the 2018 Queen’s Birthday Honours List. This Award was in recognition of Colin’s extensive service to his local Deaf Community in Sydney; to his national Deaf Community of Australia; and to the international Deaf Community, through development work in Albania, Cambodia, Kosovo and Serbia, and through service as Board member and President of the WFD, as well as Board member and Chair of the IDA.
In 2019, Colin received the following awards for his service as WFD President:
- Dr Liisa Kauppinen Human Rights Award in recognition of his dedication, advocacy, leadership and contribution to the international Deaf Community bestowed by the World Federation of the Deaf
- Clin d'Oeil Cultural Honorary Award from the Cinésourds (France)
- Abbé de l'Épée Medal bestowed by the Fédération Nationale des Sourds de France
The IDA also honoured Colin, conferring on him the title “Honorary President” for his service as Chair of the IDA between 2016 and 2018.
At the 30th Annual General Meeting of Deaf Australia in October 2016, the establishment of The Colin Allen AM Lecture was announced to honour the achievements of former President of Deaf Australia – Colin Allen AM.
The intention of the Lecture is that individuals who will give the presentation will reflect on the themes of significance that complement the contribution and legacy of Mr Colin Allen AM, including:
- Deaf Community (both Australia and International)
- Human Rights for Deaf people and their families
- Sign Language rights
- International development cooperation
- Deaf Theatre
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual+ (LGBTQIA+) issues
About the Lecture
Deaf Australia members can nominate any Deaf person to present on any of the above topics.
The Lecture will be presented during an official function hosted by Deaf Australia, and the individual who delivers the Lecture will be recognised through presentation of a work of art by a Deaf artist. The Lecture will be recorded and maintained as an archive of lectures for the benefit of the public and as an historical artefact of significance for the Australian Deaf Community.
The Lecture should not be interpreted as a scholarship in any way.
- Nominations may be made by any Deaf Australia member.
- Nominations must be submitted on the official nomination form provided by Deaf Australia.
- The closing date for nominations for 2021 is 15 October. Nominations received after the closing date will not be considered.
- The nomination form shall address the required criteria and explain why the person is being nominated to present The Colin Allen AM Lecture.
- The members of The Colin Allen AM Lecture panel will consist of:
- Mr Colin Allen AM
- The current Deaf Australia Chairperson
- One Deaf Australia Honorary Life Member
- One Deaf community member
- The panel will review all received nominations and will select the successful candidate to deliver The Colin Allen AM Lecture.
- The decision of The Colin Allen AM Lecture Panel will be final.
- The Colin Allen AM Lecture shall be a presentation relevant to the Deaf Community delivered in Auslan. The person delivering the lecture must be an Australian resident.
- The Colin Allen AM Lecture shall provide an opportunity for members of the Australian Deaf Community and the wider community to reflect on the following themes of significance:
- Deaf Community (Australia and International)
- Human Rights for Deaf people and their families
- Sign Language rights
- International development co-operation
- Deaf Theatre
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual+ (LGBTQIA+) issues
- or in other ways that have benefited Deaf people or the Australian Deaf Community such as undertaking research programmes to improve Deaf people’s human rights.
- The Colin Allen AM Lecture shall not be used for marketing purposes, however event sponsors may be acknowledged before and after the presentation as relevant.
- The content of the Colin Allen AM Lecture should, where possible, not contradict the spirit of and mission of Deaf Australia and the legacy of Mr Colin Allen AM. Any conflicts should be discussed and resolved with Deaf Australia prior to delivering the presentation.
We have closed the nominations for 2021! We will open this up again next year for the 2022 Lecture. Watch this space!