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Hon. Martin Pritchard makes National Week of Deaf People statement to Parliament
The Hon. Martin Pritchard MLC makes statement to Parliament in NWDP 2015

The Hon. Martin Pritchard MLC made a member's statement to Parliament as part of the National Week of Deaf People. You can view it here in Auslan or English, or click the link at the bottom of the page for a PDF.


Click here the extract from Hansard

Extract from Hansard 
[COUNCIL — Wednesday, 21 October 2015] 
Hon Martin Pritchard

"I begin my statement by saying that I am particularly proud of my youngest daughter, Danielle, who is an interpreter for the Deaf at the Shenton College Deaf Education Centre.

This week, from 17 to 24 October, is the National Week of Deaf People, which is recognised as an international event in cooperation with Deaf Australia and the World Federation for the Deaf and hosted locally by the Western Australian Association of the Deaf. It is held each October and is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the rich culture and heritage of Deaf people and to showcase their language, Auslan, or Australian sign language. The theme for 2015 is “With Sign Language Rights, Our Children Can”, and highlights the importance of the right of Deaf children to learn Auslan from birth. This right to the language of the deaf is crucial for children’s development, and research is very clear that early access to language is the key to full participation in both the deaf community and the general community as citizens.

Around 95 per cent of deaf children are born to hearing parents. It can be a bewildering experience for parents, characterised by medical jargon and technology that is said to fix the problem. Parents want to be able to communicate with their child and equip them for language development. A positive parenting approach to this can be through a whole family, from parents, siblings and grandparents to extended family, learning Auslan as a shared language. Our own WA Deaf Society has a weekly home-based program called Auslan for Families but is challenged to find funds for the more than 20 families a year who could benefit.

I also acknowledge the work of, and support further funding for, deaf education professionals at the School of Special Educational Needs, who provide much-needed support to children and their families. Shenton College Deaf Education Centre has developed Auslan as a language other than English initiative, and it is pleasing to see that it is being taught at Shenton College, Belmont City College and Mosman Park Primary School. This has been a popular choice and should be expanded to more high school years, and offered more broadly across the state. Youth mentoring and after-school programs are also vital to combat the potential for isolation for deaf kids and to build their sense of engagement with the community. The WA Deaf Society needs further support for initiatives in this area to complement the important work over many years by DEAFinite, its Deaf specialist employment service.

I am sure that we are all delighted to have hosted a tour of deaf youth at Parliament House today, and I am committed to them participating fully as citizens of our state for many years to come. They have also no doubt been inspired, as I have, by 2015 Young Australian of the Year, Drisana Levitzke-Gray, as she advocates for the rights of deaf people and in particular, for the rights of deaf children to learn Auslan from birth. She is a wonderful role model. Their visit to Parliament House today is just one of many events in WA for the National Week of Deaf People, which was launched last Saturday at Fremantle Prison—and of course we must not forget the deaf seniors who have today toured Government House. Today, one in six Australians is affected by hearing loss. By 2050 it is likely that one in four Australians will be affected. The issues for the Deaf and hard of hearing in our state will only become more important.

This time of celebration for the Deaf community is also a time for the broader WA community to reflect on how we can provide full community participation for deaf citizens. This should include seeing how we can provide improved access to government information in Auslan, be it in publications, on websites or through Auslan interpreters for community events, and especially in critical life-saving communications like bushfire alert broadcasts. Our state is fortunate to have quality Auslan interpreting services like Sign Language Communications WA offering 24/7 coverage. We just need to make sure that we as a government are fulfilling our obligation to provide Auslan access for the deaf community."

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