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Monday, 19 October 2015
Page: 11673

Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (11:12):

Mr Perrett spoke in Auslan—

I commend the member for Parramatta for her motion. Obviously, we take verbal communication for granted as we go about our lives, but the deaf community face communication challenges every day—every day. Auslan is a language in its own right deriving from sign languages from Britain and Ireland and has developed naturally over time. Children born to deaf parents who use Auslan learn to sign naturally in the same way that hearing children learn verbal language from their parents. For a large part of the deaf community, Auslan is acquired as a second language during childhood, adolescence or even later in life.

I would like to thank Deaf Services Queensland for their instruction in Auslan for the first part of my speech, particularly Janelle Whalan. Hopefully, I got it right for you. As you can see, I am not very proficient at signing, but I have an enormous appreciation for the people who are proficient in Auslan signing.

Deaf Services Queensland are located in Moorooka in my electorate, the same suburb I live in. This wonderful organisation has been operating since 1903, and they are the leading provider of support services and information to the deaf and the hard of hearing community in Queensland. Currently, one in six Australians are affected by hearing loss and it is predicted that by 2050 it will be one in four. There are approximately 30,000 Australians who have total hearing loss who use Auslan. The services provided by Deaf Services Queensland include Auslan interpreting, culturally and linguistically diverse interpreting, Auslan translations, employment support services, Auslan classes, independent living support and deafness awareness training. They also provide a support service for children and families.

I can only imagine the challenges that having a hearing impaired child would create in a family. With 90 per cent of people who are born with hearing impairments from hearing families, there must be a huge need for that type of support. Hearing loss would be a challenge at any age, but for children and babies with partial or complete hearing loss it must be not only terribly frightening but also a frustration to normal childhood development. An incredibly large number of Australian children are affected by hearing loss. More than 12,000 children in Australia have a significant hearing impairment. On average one Australian child is identified as hearing impaired every day, one in one thousand babies is born with significant hearing loss and by school age two in every one thousand children have identified hearing loss. By the end of secondary school, more than three in every 1,000 children will require assistance because of hearing loss.

For these children and their families facilities like the Yeerongpilly Early Childhood Development Program provide a solid foundation from which to launch their educational experience. The Yeerongpilly Early Childhood Development Program is an Education Queensland facility for young children with hearing loss from birth to pre-prep. This free program is located on the campus of the Yeerongpilly State School—and I am visiting Jennifer McKee and the rest of the team this Friday. The program offers a range of communication choices to families, including auditory—oral, spoken language in combination with Auslan, bilingual—bicultural.

Last week, at Parliament House I participated in a game of silent touch football—so no sledging—in recognition of the challenges facing the hearing impaired in everyday life. Rugby league legend Wally Lewis, who has had personal experience of the challenges of hearing impairment through his daughter Jamie-Lee was on hand. Jamie-Lee did not play this year; certainly Wally added a bit of class to the politicians running around.

Also, a few weeks back the principal of Calamvale Special School, Tom Byrne, brought some of his students to Canberra. The member for Rankin and I caught up with them because the school serves both of our electorates. Calamvale is one of the largest special schools on the south side—it has 130 students. All students have significant intellectual disabilities, but several students have multiple disabilities, including autism, cerebral palsy and hearing impairment. The students range from five to 18 years old. There are 22 classes at Calamvale with 80 teachers, including teacher hours and all the teacher aids, and all the students at Calamvale Special School learn Auslan. Incredibly, their senior class of eight students conducts all of its lessons bilingually using both English and Auslan. Principal Tom Byrne explained that some autistic children cannot verbalise, so learning Auslan gives those children a way of communicating and also allows those with hearing impairments to be included.

I particularly commend the member for Parramatta for bringing this motion to the House.