There is a dreadful injustice being served Queensland's deaf and hard of hearing (HoH) children.
In 2005 Education Queensland was sued for discrimination against 2 deaf children who required access to education through the provision of Auslan interpreters, one family won the case and the other family won a year later on appeal. As a result the Bligh government supplied the families with NAATI trained interpreters.
Then the 2007-08 Queensland Government State Budget committed $30 million over 4 years to transition to Auslan as the language of instruction for Deaf and hearing impaired students in Queensland schools, and introduced EI's (hearing teacher aids with Auslan experience) and ALM's (deaf teacher aids fluent in Auslan who model the language in various situations).
There are no formal qualifications required for an EI other than a willingness to learn, and no qualifications are listed for the ALM position either. These positions are also categorised as simple teacher aid positions offering basic teacher aid wage.
To deaf and HoH children these positions would be just as vital as speech therapy, and physio therapy and yet they do not appear to be recognised by a suitable title, suitable qualifications and suitable wage.
There is some short courses offered to staff as professional development but they are not enough to ensure fluency in Auslan, if these courses are to continue they need to be reviewed and improved.
The two families who won their cases were actually given access to fully trained NAATI qualified Auslan interpreters. The rest of the deaf and hard of hearing children are offered minimally trained teacher aids.
My daughter started school 3 years ago and had attended an Early Intervention Unit previous to this with Education Queensland since she was 18 months old. She has a moderate to severe hearing loss and limited verbal skills and Auslan was never offered or recommended to us, that is years of isolation and missed learning opportunity.
Quite frankly this is a disgusting state of affairs. From the above evidence it is clearly obvious that the Bligh government and Education Queensland of that time did not take the need to provide a quality education through the provision of properly trained Auslan Interpreters to our deaf children seriously enough
An EI with limited Auslan skills could be likened to English teacher with a thick unintelligible foreign accent, and employing an ALM based on the assumption that all deaf people know Auslan is simply not correct and unprofessional. We wouldn't tolerate this sort of practice for our hearing children why are we placing deaf children in such a position?
Lev Vygotsky's scaffolding theory of proximal learning suggests that teachers use cooperative learning exercises where less competent children develop with help from more skilful peers - within the zone of proximal development. The only way our deaf children can have full access to this sort of learning environment or any learning experience is through the provision of skilful Auslan translators. Deaf children have a right to a quality education, like all other children, in a language and environment that maximises their potential.
Being deaf is shrouded with many myths, people believe hearing aids or cochlear implants fix everything, they don't. Others assume many deaf people can lip read, lip reading is very challenging and even the most expert are guessing 60% of the time. Our deaf kids need access to fluent Auslan interpreters in order to allow them the same access to education their hearing counterparts have.
The way things currently stand our deaf and hard of hearing children's basic human rights to access education in Queensland is being denied. This situation must be changed, so that parents don't have to uproot or separate their families in order to get the educational needs of their deaf or HoH child met.
Position requirements must be reviewed, training improved and only skilled fluent Auslan users be accepted for such positions, introduce testing to the interview through an auditioning process.