ABC TV report: interpreter and commguide shortage

Last night, ABC TV news reported on the national shortage of Auslan interpreters and commguides. Heather Lawson was featured. DBV is glad that this issue is getting some coverage in the media. The Deafblind community in Victoria is really struggling at the moment, with very limited access to commguides. The situation has gotten worse over the last couple of years. Thanks to Meredith Bartlett and all who stepped in to support Heather’s access to this event, where the Victorian government announced funding for Auslan training. Gayle Tierney, the Victorian training minister, said that Victoria will add Auslan to the list of free TAFE courses. This is great news! See the 2 minute news segment, with a transcript below.

ABC TV News, Victoria, 16.5.2022

Anchor: Some people who are deaf and hard of hearing say a national shortage of Auslan interpreters is leaving them feeling isolated from society. There are now moves to make it easier for Victorians to learn sign language and become interpreters.

Reporter (Nicole Asher): For months they were beamed into loungerooms across the country as fixtures of daily COVID press conferences, sometimes becoming accidental celebrities. Despite appearances, there’s a shortage of Auslan interpreters

Heather Lawson: It’s the worst I’ve ever seen in my whole life. Deafblind people are very isolated and lonely.

Nicole: Heather Lawson relies on interpreters and communication guides to interact.

Heather: And it’s a real barrier for us. I’m concerned about the future.

Nicole: Today she was relying on friends and colleagues because no interpreters were available.

Heather: And since we’ve had the rollout of the NDIS, and the coronavirus pandemic took place, I’ve noticed that deaf and deafblind people are more stranded at home.

Nicole: Expression Australia provides Auslan interpreters. Last year there was an almost 8% increase in the hours of interpreting it delivered but demand is outstripping supply.

Gayle Tierney (training minister):  Victorians absolutely appreciate the skills of Auslan interpreters as the result of the media conferences during the course of the pandemic. But it became very clear that we did have a shortage. 

Nicole: The state government is adding Auslan to its list of free TAFE courses, so more people can qualify to then train as interpreters.

Meredith Bartlett: They often are put off by the barrier of paying for two diplomas for two different skills.

Nicole: With the increasing visibility of the role, RMIT expects the number of people studying interpreting could eventually double which is good news for people like Heather.

Heather:  I really think it will have a positive impact. 

Nicole: Nicole Asher, ABC News, Melbourne.