Future of Deaf academia and research in Australia


During the closing remarks of last year’s 4th Deaf Studies and Research Symposium, Dr. Breda Carty commented about how there was not enough support for Deaf researchers in the Oceania region. She also mentioned that we need more Deaf researchers, especially in Australia and New Zealand.

At that very moment, I knew I had chosen the right path to becoming a Deaf researcher. I was sitting next to my friend, Josh who is also on his way to becoming a Deaf researcher. A question hovered over our heads: will there be more young Deaf people with an ambition to become a researcher?

A week prior to the symposium, I had gotten approval from Deakin University to transfer from Master of Communication to Master of International & Community Development with a PhD pathway. The course will officially start on Monday, and I am incredibly excited!

I learnt this week that I will have to start preparing a research proposal for my dissertation and to secure a supervisor for next year. It’s going to be a long and difficult journey, but one that will benefit me and the Deaf community in the near future. I am actually looking forward to it because it’s what I’ve wanted for so long.

I’ll be honest here. I originally wanted to pursue a Master of Arts with a major in Deaf Studies at La Trobe University. As soon as I completed my undergraduate degree at University of Western Sydney in June 2012, I learnt that La Trobe would not be offering the said postgraduate course and the National Institute for Deaf Studies and Sign Language at La Trobe would be closed down. I was rather disappointed, and I had no idea where I would go next. The future of Deaf Studies in Australia wasn’t looking bright, and there is a small number of academics with a specialist research interest in Deaf studies here in Australia.

Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States has an amazing support network for Deaf academics. There’s a fantastic Listserv list for Deaf academics, and I constantly get emails from various Deaf people who work in universities as professors, lecturers and researchers all over the world. Belgium hosted the 7th International Deaf Academics and Researchers Conference in early February 2015. The theme was Deaf Ethnographies & Deaf Politics. 

The 8th International Deaf Academics and Researchers Conference will be held in Aarhus, Denmark during 2017. This will be perfect timing for me, as I will have completed my dissertation by then. 

The question that remains is…

What does the future hold for Deaf academics and researchers in Australia and New Zealand?

I hope to start my PhD candidature in 2017 or 2018. Ideally, I would like to do my PhD right at home in Australia, however, I am prepared to relocate overseas in order to pursue my long term goal. Gallaudet University would be ideal, but I have no idea if they offer PhD candidacy in Deaf Studies. I’ll have to contact them sometime soon to find out.

I’ll be blogging about my academic journey over the next few years, so keep an eye on this space!


The Future Dr. Beaver.



  1. By Deaf researcher, do you mean someone who conducts research on Deaf society, or someone who identifies as Deaf and works as a researcher in any discipline?

      1. Thanks for the reply! I know quite a few HoH PhD Candidates and researchers (myself included, in the International Development discipline). I do certainly agree that there needs to be more Deaf people pursing PhDs and academia, and also more people driving research on the Deaf community in general. All the best for your research journey 🙂

        1. No worries! There should be a network setup for Deaf/HoH people who are currently doing a PhD and/or a HDR degree (MA with coursework and/or research) in the Australia/Oceania region. And yes, I agree there should be people driving research on the Deaf community in all disciplines, especially in Humanities and Sociology.

  2. Sherrie, please may I ask what is the reason behind the lack of Deaf researchers in Australia/Oceania? Does it all boil down to educational background or financial reasons for shying away from the prospect of PhD studies? I recall my father several years ago saying he would have liked to do a PhD but when he learnt of the costs involved to pursued that course of study, he backed away from it as it was beyond his financial reach to afford paying for a PhD course. May I suggest something : if there is a kind of scholarship available for MA or PhD studies, this might help encourage more Deafies to consider pursuing in the area of Deaf Studies as this would help them survive financially while on a scholarship grant? Food for thought?

    1. I believe it has got something to do with lack of support and funding. As for Deaf/HoH people diving into academic/research sector, I believe it has to do with lack of encouragement as you know that most Deaf people do not have the best confidence in their academic abilities. It’s really all down to the rest of us – current Deaf academics, teachers, parents and the Deaf community to encourage young Deaf people.

      There is plenty of scholarship opportunities for postgraduate studies, especially with higher degree research degrees and PhDs here in Australia. PhDs are generally covered by the University and the government under the research training scheme and stipends are paid too. PhD students also take on teaching and research jobs within their university, which will also help to pay their living expenses.

      1. Thanks Sherrie for the response. This may surprise you…. I was invited to undertake a PhD while doing undergraduate studies at Uni years ago… I was very interested in doing research in the area of Deaf Education at the time, with a dream of researching the pros and cons of Deaf Education in Oceania such as Australia, N.Z, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Samoa and Asia (Singapore/ Phillipines) to research on the educational outcomes and benefits for Deaf children accessing to educational opportunities, and how this research would proceed to target the specific areas neglecting in Deaf Education within Oceania/ Asia….. it would entail a deeply-ingrained aspect of research , and it is financially a minefield…..so I decided against it… by throwing away the invitation and do something elsewhere! I do pray and hope there would be someone out there who would take my place one day to undertake this unique research… as my heart is in these Deaf children who deserve better educational opportunities, especially in poor countries like deep in the South Pacific and parts of Asia. Cultural attitudes can be a bit of a problem and quite oppressive in depriving Deaf children to the right of a normal education. I could highlight an example of a Deaf boy in one country within the South Pacific Islands, who was living a closeted life at home so barely anyone saw him but heard that his family had a Deaf child but they felt ashamed and afraid of dishonor in their village for having a disabled child. He never went to school like his siblings did…. till one day someone reported it to the school Principal of a Deaf school. The Principal organized for 2 teachers to go to that village to visit his family to confirm whether the information is correct?! The poor chap already aged 9, came forward, timid and frightened, with very little communication and barely knowing much sign language. With his parents’ consent, he went to the Deaf school, and thrived! As it turned out, he had a brilliant mind, highly intelligent and skipped four grades ahead of his pairs to complete his Primary education within 3 years! He desired to go to University and get a good job in the hope of supporting his very poor family…… this example just highlights the need for this unique type of research on how Deafies could be supported and be better educated like everyone else in their homelands….food for thought?! All the best to you Sherrie on your future study endeavours! (and yep, I am Deaf too, since birth and am in a similar area of interest that you have for Deaf studies! Cheers! 😉 )

  3. sorry to hearing Deaf Studies of La Trobe University closed down. I’m doing deaf studies certificate at Victoria University in Wellington New Zealand. I hope you find a goal deaf researcher in future.

    1. It’s disappointing hey! That’s awesome – we should meet some day to discuss Deaf studies! All the best of luck to you too 🙂

  4. hi Sherry, i have read your post with eagerness whilst smiling ear to ear!! i am not Deaf, but i am very interested in researching on Issues faced by the Deaf especially in regards to mental health. i am Kenyan, and sadly so, i am yet to come across any article that looks at the mental health of the Deaf in my country. there are many,however, looking at education issues. i am conversant with the Kenyan Sign Language and i am hoping in the days to come and in future, to add value to the Deaf community in my country. I am currently pursuing my Msc. in Clinical Psychology and am looking forward to immediately start on my PhD, on Deaf issues. So help me God….

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