With the AFL Grand Final looming next weekend and thousands of fans eager in anticipation, the normally joyous (depending on your team!) occasion has brought to light a history of engrained and systematic discrimination to the deaf community of Australia. With the rejection of the request for an AUSLAN interpreter to sign the Australian Anthem at the opening ceremony of the game, thousands have signed a petition in an effort for their language, and culture, to be represented at a sport that many love. Whilst the AFL spokesman Patrick Keane stated they were offering closed captions for the anthem and the games, the issue of AUSLAN not deemed as an ‘official’ language or even being seen as a word-for-word translation for English (it’s not,) is a much wider and deeply rooted issue than simply football.
AUSLAN is a language in it’s own right, with its own grammar, rhythm and patterns – it forms the basis of language acquisition, communication and belonging amongst many in the deaf community…So why isn’t it viewed with the same respect as our other official language, English? With 1 in 4 deaf or hard of hearing people leaving jobs because of discrimination and the deaf community 4X as likely to have mental health issues than their hearing buddies – why isn’t the issue taken more seriously? Why can’t a basic human right of communication be viewed as a necessary in modern Australia and how can we start viewing this as our own social responsibility? I definitely don’t know all the answers, and me, myself can’t change everything alone – but we can certainely put a hand up in an effort to be more inclusive and a great way to start would be to learn a few simple signs on your way to work.
Check out http://www.auslan.org.au/ as a way to start and https://www.change.org/p/afl-in-general-auslan-interpreter-for-the-australian-anthem-on-afl-grand-final-day to sign the petition.