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Monday 18 September 2023
As the nation gears up to celebrate International Day of Sign Languages this Saturday 23 September, TAFE NSW is celebrating a frontline health worker providing more inclusive care thanks to her studies in Auslan.
Despite the Australian Census revealing that more than 16,000 Australians use Auslan to communicate at home, there are only around 371 interpreters working to various levels of engagement nationally.
Research by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has also found most deaf people experience barriers in accessing healthcare information because of limited information being available in Auslan.
Lake Macquarie’s Amanda Dawn, who is studying a Certificate III in Auslan at TAFE NSW Newcastle and works as a paramedic for NSW Ambulance, is one local helping to bridge the gap.
“Over the years, I have used Auslan multiple times to communicate with patients, although only at a very basic level,” Amanda said. “By becoming more fluent, I hope to be able to contribute even more in my profession – it is great to be able to decrease the barrier hard of hearing or deaf people face. It may also open up new career progression opportunities for me.”
Amanda said learning the language is not just helpful in her career, but highly rewarding on a personal level too. “I loved learning about the rich culture and community. It's much more than just a language, it has such a rich culture and strong community,” Amanda said.
She credits her teacher Thomas Doe, and TAFE NSW’s flexible study options, for helping her balance the pressures of work, study and having a young family. “TAFE NSW has multiple study options, and my teacher has been very supportive,” Amanda said.
Mr Doe, who decided to become a full-time teacher to help foster inclusivity and Deaf awareness, said career opportunities were just one of the many benefits of learning the language.
“There are many reasons to learn Auslan – to make a difference in the community, for fun, to make new friends, to communicate with Deaf friends or family, to get involved in Auslan in the workplace, and new job opportunities such as support workers or interpreters,” Mr Doe said.
Deaf-lead advocacy and information organisation Deaf Australia also encouraged Australians to learn the language.
“A community that learns Auslan demonstrates its commitment to inclusivity and diversity. It fosters the development of a more inclusive and compassionate society. It also fosters cultural awareness, where individuals develop a deeper understanding of the Deaf community's unique customs, norms and values, and the love and preference of Auslan as its natural language,” a Deaf Australia spokesperson said.
Ahead of International Day of Sign Languages, Amanda and her classmates learnt how to sign this year’s theme, ‘A World Where Deaf People Can Sign Anywhere!’.