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Launch of the Auslan Bible Translation videos, Sydney, Thursday, 19 August 1999: address on the occasion.

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As a mark of respect for those who are profoundly deaf, - and as a trib ute to their beautiful language - I shall attempt to say the first few words of these comments in Auslan.


[Ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me very great pleasure to be here with you all.  Today is a very important day for all deaf people.  Today we launc h the Auslan Bible.  As you can see, I do not understand sign language.  I will therefore speak and Mr Bonser (indicates Mr Bonser by pointing) will translate into sign language.]


Today’s launch of the Auslan Bible Translation Project for the Bible Socie ty in Australia takes the form of the publication of the first two videos.   With it, we see in tangible form the first fruits of a proposal that goes back some years now - to give for the first time to the deaf community in Australia at least part of the Bible in our own sign language, Auslan.


The community which uses Auslan, including teachers, family and friends of deaf or hearing-impaired Australians, comprises some 30,000 people.   Quite a sizeable cultural and linguistic group in our society.   The translation project will continue for some years into the future, until approximately 30 books of the Old and New Testaments, together with several Psalms and Proverbs have been translated and made available on video, possibly with short studies on some of the Books that have been translated and perhaps even an Auslan dictionary of religious terminology.


I understand it is only the sixth time in the world that portion of the Bible has been translated into a signed language - though none equate with Auslan.   It is also a project, I might add, that for the first time translates a major piece of literature into Auslan.   Quite apart from the sacred significance of the Bible, the stories of these first two Books to be translated from the Old Testament - the Book of Ruth and the Book of Jonah - have entered the very heart of our civilisation, of our cultural and literary identity.


One only has to read some of the accounts given by deaf people to realise the extent of the discrimination - indeed, the downright prejudice - they faced in the days before Australian sign language - “Auslan” as it has been known since the 1980s - became acknowledged as the vital and important visual language that it is.   Last year I had the very great pleasure of launching the CD-ROM of the dictionary “Signs of Australia”, which will extend knowledge and appreciation of the Auslan language not only to the deaf community but of course also to the wider Australian community as well.


The mission of the Bible Society in Australia is to provide the Scriptures without doctrinal comment to all people, in a language they can understand, in a format they can use, and at a price they can afford.   Translations have been produced in many languages, including some Aboriginal languages, in Braille, in the spoken tongue of some Asian and Pacific peoples.   Now we have these first two videos of the Auslan Translation project.


It has been a very substantial undertaking in which members of the deaf community have been actively involved at every st age.   The translation team has been based at the Auslan Development Centre in Sydney, considering the best ways to express the concepts in Auslan.   These two Books - Ruth and Jonah - lend themselves admirably to the first videos.   They are both quite short.   Both carry a strong narrative.


Let me conclude by congratulating everyone who has been involved in the project to date:  the Bible Society in Australia, the members of the Auslan Bible Translation Project, Anglican Media Sydney and the representatives of the deaf community and of the Churches who are with us today … to name but some.   I support and greatly admire your commitment, your professionalism and your sense of service to the deaf and to the Christian duty of making the word of God generally available.   I sincerely hope that this work will make the Good News available to every deaf and hearing-impaired person in our country who is willing to receive it.   And I look forward to the next two videos - the Gospel of Mark and Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, when they appear.


I would also like to thank Ms Mandy Dolejsi who has tried to teach me Auslan.   I should add that, if you think she has been unsuccessful, it is my fault - particularly my difficulty with thumbs and fingers.   I also thank Mr Bonser, our interpreter, for his great skill not only in translating my spoken words but also in deciphering my efforts at sign language.


And now, with great pleasure, I officially launch the videos of the Book of Jonah and the Book of Ruth for the Auslan Bible Translation Project.



jy  1999-08-23  09:28