Statement in regards to the media coverage of the Auslan interpreting of the same sex marriage postal survey announcement
It was a significant moment for Australia when David Kalisch, the Australian Statistician, announced the results of the same sex marriage postal survey at 10am on Wednesday 15th November 2017. The Australian Bureau of Statistics and ABC ensured this moment was accessible for the Deaf community as the live broadcast included an Auslan interpreter who interpreted Kalisch’s announcement.
This was an emphatic step to include the Deaf community in a momentous occasion, so they could too celebrate with friends, colleagues and communities. Unfortunately, afterwards media attention was drawn to inaccurate commentary in regards to the Auslan interpretation of the announcement.
A number of national and international media outlets including The Age, news.com.au and The Evening Standard posted inaccurate reports about the interpreting based on the Twitter commentary of a person who had previously studied Auslan at the introductory level. This person was not Deaf, nor a native user of Auslan, nor did they have a qualification in Auslan interpreting or sign language linguistics. By their own admission their Auslan was “rusty”. Yet this person’s commentary was used as the basis for a number of published reports.
Deaf Victoria are disappointed that these media outlets did not attempt to verify this commentary by requesting the opinion of a native user of Auslan or an expert, such as a sign language linguist. Deaf people are all too often marginalised from even their own language and community, with precedence being frequently given to the opinions and views of people who can hear on topics and issues inherent to the Deaf community. This denies Deaf people the right to autonomy and integrity. This denies them the ability to speak for themselves about their language and community, and the workings of an Auslan interpreter. Subsequently, this perpetuates damaging myths and stereotypes about Auslan, the Deaf community and the interpreting process and standards.
Deaf Victoria hopes these media outlets will amend their reports, with an apology to the Deaf community and the Auslan interpreter concerned, for publishing inaccurate statements. Furthermore, Deaf Victoria hopes all media outlets will in future take steps to ensure that they consult members of the Deaf community with the appropriate qualifications and lived experiences, before publishing such reports about Auslan and Auslan interpreting.
Deaf Victoria provides advocacy for the Deaf and hard of hearing people in Victoria with funding received from the Victorian Government’s Department of Health and Human Services. Deaf Victoria acts in response to the needs of the community and are concerned with basic rights and accessibility. Deaf Victoria promotes and defends social justice and wellbeing for Deaf and hard of hearing people.