Directed and Edited by Joel Checkley and Produced by Belinda Ensor for Museums Australia (Victoria), 2015.Contributors
Museums Australia (Victoria)
Reproduction of this content for public purposes must be approved by Museums Australia (Victoria).Copyright
Museums Australia (Victoria)
The Deaf community in Victoria is a diverse, vibrant and welcoming community united by a collective experience and a shared language. English is commonly considered a second language within the community, whilst Auslan (Australian sign language) is thought of as the first language, often developed before English for those who are born deaf.
What is less apparent to the hearing mainstream is that within the Deaf world there exists a strong culture and deep sense of pride within the community. Deafhood explores language, culture and community through the experiences of three deaf individuals.
The term Deafhood was first articulated by British academic Dr Paddy Ladd in 1993 in a move to separate the medical paradigm of deafness from the lived experience of it. Although the term is used widely across the Deaf community, for some members of the community the underlying philosophy is contentious. For further detail on the concept and principles of Deafhood, see Understanding Deafhood: In Search of its Meanings.
For more information about the history of Vicdeaf, visit the Vicdeaf website.
For more information about media representations of Deaf people, see the Arts Access website.
I’m Brent Phillips and I’m the Manager of Communications and Community Relations Department here at Vicdeaf.
Vicdeaf’s the primary service provider for deaf and hard of hearing people in Victoria and we work with a range of organisations and stake holders including government, non-government organisations and the private sector to ensure we provide access and information and support for deaf and hard of hearing people. We also provide awareness training, and information to the mainstream community about our language and culture and community.
So my name is Vanessa Ravlich and I’m twenty-one years old. I’ve grown up deaf. I have two deaf sons and my fiancé is deaf.
I’ve been deaf since birth. My parents are deaf, my brother’s deaf and my grandparents were deaf too, so I was born into the community by default and it just went from there.
I’m Anne Bremner. I’m a deaf person. My parents were also deaf, but they did not use sign language. I went to a school for the deaf, which did not use sign language and after school I went straight to the deaf club to learn sign languages. It was a wonderful experience for me.
Auslan is the acronym for Australian Sign Language – the language of the deaf community here in Australia.
Auslan is not a universal language, it’s only used in Australia.
It has it’s own grammar, syntax, grammatical structure and it’s completely different to English and a lot of people assume Auslan is English on the hands.
A lot of people think that signs around Australia are all the same, but there’s not, but they’re not, we have the northern and the southern dialect.
Some deaf people use Auslan and others prefer to speak or lip read, so really it depends on the person.
In Tasmania for example, the word ‘cream’, they use this sign. Here in Melbourne that sign is ‘shit’. So there you go.
Deaf people, sometimes they’re quite blunt and they say ‘oh you’re really fat!’ you know, that’s, you can tell quite obviously what people are saying.
If you look back in the olden days, if you like and I’m talking the 1800s, the early 1900s, most deaf people would use finger spelling the alphabet on their hands because they had such good English and everything would be spelt out on their fingers.
And then with TV we had people from Italy coming to Australia, a lot of Greek people coming and they used so many gestures and deaf people saw that and felt ‘you know what we can start to sign and be more open’ because previously it was a hidden language. There was a stigma with using sign language. But once we had the Europeans here, with their, the way they gesticulate as well and after the war in the 1950s, we started to find ourselves being far more natural with our expression and there we are.
One of the main reasons why we produce the information in Auslan is not only for those who have literacy issues but it’s also important that we provide Auslan information, or content, for the deaf community, because they have the right to access information in their first language - so that is key. Regardless of people’s literacy levels, a lot of people still appreciate the opportunity to be able to view the information in their first language and that’s so important.
I think a lot of people have different perceptions about what ‘culturally deaf’ means, but for me as a deaf person I think to be ‘culturally deaf’ it means you’re a member of a community, you sign, you’re involved in the community activities, you’re involved in the community groups that take place, sporting events and having an innate understanding and a true belief and identity of what it means to be deaf and being proud about it too.
Because we don’t hear, we often rely on our intuition. We rely on our eyes as well, but we have Deafhood, which is what we describe as our intuition.
If I’m, you know, holding a young baby and the baby is making all those babbling noises, hearing people will say ‘oh, can you hear that?’ ‘Oh no, I can feel it, I can feel through the baby you know that it is making sounds and..’ It throws them. They suddenly think ‘oh gosh, can you hear?’ but of course not, we can feel those sounds.
A lot of traditions, um, that are well known within the deaf community. Things like the long goodbye and also people catching up within the context of the kitchen.
If you are in a deaf person’s house you will be able to tell straight away, for example, there’s lights signalling when the door bell rings or when the phone rings and it’s just so noisy.
You know a deaf person would go over and see a doctor, a doctor was writing down the notes and the deaf person wants his attention and starts tapping on the table you know the doctor was thinking ‘Phwoar, that’s not usual behaviour’, but that’s how we get each other’s attention.
Like you saw in the Deaf Kitchen theatre production there were lots of things, like the lights and using the kitchen table and banging to get peoples attention and that kind of thing.
I think Vicdeaf contributes so much to the community through various programs and services and has over the last 130 years.
The deaf community is almost like one big family…We’re not blood so to speak but our heart is the same. We have the same experiences of being deaf.
As somebody who works within the organisation, I see all of the work that we do and I just think ‘You know, wow, the commitment of the people and the staff here ensure that deaf people have the opportunity to achieve the best in their lives is something extraordinary’ that I extremely value within the organisation.
That’s why I think is important to have Vicdeaf and Deaf Victoria and other organisations providing advocacy and support to the deaf community.
It just feels like our home. It’s my place, belonging to the community, it’s my world.
In a Hearing World
Hidden from Sight
In a Seeing World
The Laughter of the Tribe
Eyes on Access
Sign Language Alphabet Chart
Flinders Street Deaf Club
Muir and Abraham at Flinders Street Deaf Club
Blackburn Lake Park
Jolimont Square Garden Party
Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind Chief Librarian
Demonstration of Assistive Technology
Braille Playboy Magazine
Story education resources
Education A Sensory Experience Education Kit - Deaf Perspectives
Created by Way Back When Consulting Historians, this education resource links to relevant learning outcomes in the year 9 Australian History Curriculum. It utilises a range of primary sources including images, video and essays; interviews with members of the Deaf community; inquiry and research-based activities; and assignment tasks and an assessment rubric.
Education A Sensory Experience Education Kit - Blind Perspectives
Created by Way Back When Consulting Historians, this education resource links to relevant learning outcomes in the year 9 Australian History Curriculum. It utilises a range of primary sources including images, video and essays; interviews with people who are blind or have low vision; inquiry and research-based activities; and assignment tasks and an assessment rubric.