Categories: Deaf Stuff, Travel

Sherrie

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With 2018 approaching its end, I revisit my tradition of reflecting on the year that was by writing a post about it. I skipped this last year due to the insane amount of stress I was under.

XVIII Australian Deaf Games

After 18 months of blood, sweat and tears, the most anticipated event of the Australian Deaf community was about to happen. This time last year, I was experiencing the worst stress and it took a toll on my body in so many ways – mentally and physically.

In hot and dry Albury/Wodonga on the NSW & Victoria border, the Games kicked off with an approximately 800-strong crowd. Throughout the week, I operated on little sleep, unlimited amounts of coffee and food whilst coordinating media and communications. Despite the stress and heat, being the Media & Communications Coordinator was the most challenging role I’ve worked in and I learnt so much. With the media covering the majority of the Games – newspaper, radio, TV, and social media – there was no time to be lackasture. We needed to capture the spirit of the Games and showcase it through multiple platforms – and we did just that.

Because of the support from the Games Organising Committee, the Deaf community, the Games volunteers, and the community in Albury/Wodonga, we created a new legacy: the 2018 Australian Deaf Games had the most media coverage ever in the 50+ years history of the Games.

I wouldn’t have survived the Games if it wasn’t for the support of the amazing Games Organising Committee, especially under Alex’s stellar leadership and eagle eyes. It was also during the Games I had to continue reminding myself to take a breather every now and then to keep my sanity at bay. I also received support from family and friends through Facebook and text messages, and I am so very grateful for that.

The Games also provided me with a lifetime supply of take-home lessons, which I am very grateful for. It was also beneficial for me on both personal and professional levels. It also reminded me of the importance of volunteering, no matter the size of the event.

The 2018 Australian Deaf Games Organising Committee celebrating the conclusion of the Games after the Closing Ceremony in Wodonga, VIC.

Unwinding in Canada

In September 2017, I decided to book a trip to Canada for April/May 2018 as I knew this trip would be much-needed, as well as a reward for surviving the Games.

As mentioned earlier, I was experiencing the worst stress. I had a rash on my thighs. My menstrual cycle was out of whack. Tinnitus was awful. It also took a toll on my mental well-being, although I continued practicing hygge to ensure my mental health remained manageable.

I had 3 weeks in Canada and I chose not to seek out the Deaf community there. In hindsight, this was a decision well-made, as it allowed me to be objective and to develop new perspectives. It also allowed me to take a break from the deaf world. Albeit for a few FaceTime sessions and sending Auslan videos, I did not sign much — unless I was on my own.

Me with one of Vancouver’s many cherry blossom trees.

Boy, did Canada give me what I needed to unwind. Canada is a gorgeous country. I loved every second of my time there. Whilst I only had three weeks, I explored Vancouver, Victoria, Banff, and Lake Louise.

Vancouver is quite similar to Melbourne, and I felt right at home. People there are so friendly. I also felt very safe, especially when I stayed at an AirBnB in Surrey (30 mins west of Vancouver CBD). Not once did I feel awkward; I found myself becoming immersed into the hustle of Vancouver just like here in Melbourne.

Coffee time in Gastown!

There’s so much to do in Vancouver, hence my decision not to visit Whistler thus expanding my time in Vancouver. I spent an entire Sunday walking and exploring Stanley Park — easily one of my favourite days. As a bookworm, visiting the Vancouver Public Library was a must. I wasn’t prepared for it to be so beautiful. It’s home to more than 1 million books! I could easily spend a whole week there, reading numerous books.

Vancouver Public Library – a must visit!

As a Beaver, I needed to see and get everything beaver related. The beaver is Canada’s national animal, so I knew I wouldn’t be in shortage of beavers. I wanted to see a real live beaver dam, and Google told me the Olympic Village in Vancouver was home to a beaver dam. I made the trek there, and found the beaver dam. I was so elated to see it, although a bit disappointed not to see any beavers. However, as the only Beaver I had to make do by taking a selfie of myself with the beaver dam.

A Beaver with the beaver dam at the Olympic Village, Vancouver.

I originally planned to take an overnight Greyhound from Vancouver to Banff — however, after talking to a friend, I decided to take the trip during the day so I would be able to see the beauty of travelling through the mountains and the Rockies. Best $90 I’ve ever lost. The scenery during the 10-hour trip was nothing short of amazing. I had my face plastered to the window for the majority of the trip. I arrived in Banff at approximately 10pm, and just like Vancouver, it is a very safe town.

Scenery on the Vancouver – Banff trip.

I woke up to a balmy -3 morning in Banff, and it was the day I would finally tick Lake Louise off my bucket list. I booked a seat on the Brewster Express and had it drop off me at Fairmount Chateau Lake Louise. I was NOT prepared for the magnificent beauty waiting for me at Lake Louise. I was immediately gobsmacked. Glorious snow was everywhere. Having received a cochlear implant the year before, I heard myself walking on snow for the first time. It was one of the most beautiful sounds – it’s definitely on the top of the list next to walking on autumn leaves.

Lake Louise in its magnificent beauty.

Lake Louise is a winter wonderland. The staff at Fairmount Chateau are so welcoming and warm – if you are not a guest there, they allow you to use their facilities. I asked one of the staff there how to get to the Lake Louise Ski Resort, and they said I could use their bus so I booked myself on the 12pm bus. Upon arriving at the ski resort, the bus driver took it upon himself to show me around. I really appreciated that, and his warm vibe also showed me how friendly Canadians are. I can definitely attest for Canadians being one of the most friendliest people in the world.

Me at Lake Louise.

Canada does hot chocolate the best. I haven’t been able to find hot chocolate in Melbourne as good as the one I had at Lake Louise.

I’m definitely going back to Lake Louise when it’s summer there. It’s one of those places that needs to be experienced in all seasons.

Banff is a cute little town, and is very charming. It’s easily explored in an entire day. I was so excited to find Beaver Street!

Beaver on Beaver St, Banff.

I could definitely see myself spending a week in Banff – it’s one of those towns where people escape from city hustles. One of my favourite parts of Banff is its charming Christmas store. I spent 2 hours marveling at everything in the store. The spirit and magic of Christmas is definitely felt inside the store — a must visit for people who are obsessed with Christmas. I bought a few cute Canadian Christmas ornaments – cost me a pretty penny but well worth it.

I spent an entire day travelling from Banff to Victoria via Vancouver – 2x buses, 1x ferry, and two feet. It was a long day, but I loved it. It allowed me to see more of Canada’s west coast. Victoria is situated on Vancouver Island, and it is a gorgeous town. There’s a lot of history in Victoria, and its charm is similar to Edinburgh’s albeit being on the lower scale.

British Columbia Parliament Building – Victoria, BC

It’s very easy to get around Victoria by bus or foot. I did a lot of walking around Victoria since I wanted to take advantage of the weather there. There’s a lot of witty quotes to be found around Victoria. I spent a lot of time (and money) at the Chapters bookstore — it’s MASSIVE. Victoria is also a must-visit, although I would have liked to explore more of Vancouver Island. Next time!

One of many quotes found in Victoria, BC.

I’ve fallen in love with Canada, and I am keen as mustard to go back as soon as possible to explore more of of this gorgeous country. As I write this, I am waiting for an invite to apply for a work permit in Canada. I got an invitation the other day but I had to decline as I wanted to be able to activate the visa by end of 2020. There’ll be a number of invitation rounds throughout 2019, so here’s hoping I have a Canadian work permit ready to be used in 2020. Fingers crossed! #Canada2020

Doing

Okay, enough about Canada.

Like every previous year, I’ve continued growing as a person. My theme word for 2018 was do.

Did I do? Yes. Absolutely. I did a lot of things this year. These things may seem small, but to me, they are significant contributions to my personal growth. I continued to grow personally and professionally by doing relevant activities.

Oh wait…one more thing about Canada. #sorrynotsorry

As I mentioned earlier, I allowed myself to become objective through immersion in the mainstream community without having contact with deaf people in Canada. This allowed me to identify gaps in the deaf community. The biggest gap I identified was the inability to organise accessible tours for deaf and hard of hearing tourists around the world. I observed many tour groups during my time in Canada — and they were all aural. These tour opportunities were inaccessible for those who could not hear and/or preferred to use sign language.

The word of mouth (or rather, hands/eyes) is rather strong in the Deaf community around the world, but there is no central place for where deaf/hard of hearing people are able to book accessible tours. Thus, the idea of DeafGuides.com was born in a hostel room in Victoria, BC.

DeafGuides.com is still a work in progress. I haven’t had much time the last few months to do further work on this, although I would like to work more on it in 2019 and onwards.

Having obtained the skill of being objective also allowed me to identify gaps in Australia – what deaf/hard of hearing people in Australia were missing out on. Through viewing numerous videos created by deaf/HoH people in Europe and America, I was met with a desire to help cover this gap in Australia. The idea of Deaf Stories was born in September after a lengthy FaceTime call with Janelle. We were successful with receiving a Life Enrichment grant from Deaf Services to help kickstart Deaf Stories by focusing on profiling deaf-owned businesses around Australia. We have a vision of expanding Deaf Stories to cover many stories within the Deaf community around Australia across many genres – employment, passion, education, etc. Video version of Humans of New York, if you will ūüėČ

So, that’s a lot of doing…and more doing to be done in 2019!

Letting Go

This is the main focus of 2019 – to let go.

Just before Christmas, I had yet another dream about my father whom I have not seen since December 2006 nor had any contact since April 2010. I talked about this with my mother who said she believes that despite having no contact, he still has this hold on me and is a major blockage in my life. Hence, the need to start letting him go.

Me as a baby with my father, Stephen.

I began the process of letting him go by writing a letter. Writing the letter broke my heart, but it was what I needed to do. A couple of days after Christmas, I started grieving for my father. It was when I knew I was starting to let him go. Grieving doesn’t feel nice; I tried to suppress this although I reminded myself that it was okay to grieve so I grieved all day.

To help the grieving process, I decided to start a journal called “Letters to Stephen”. It’s an outlet for me to process my thoughts and frustrations whenever I think of my father.

My mother raised me to be a fiercely independent woman who doesn’t take bullshit from people.

Letters to Stephen – December 23, 2018.

I need to let go more often, as it will allow me to rebuild my confidence and self-esteem. Letting go will also allow me to prosper and continue growing into the person I am destined to be.

All in all…

2018 was yet another year filled with adventures, lessons, memories, and love. I look forward to another year where I can continue to reflect and work on myself.

2018 was the year I got back into sport – my much-loved sport, cricket! I look forward to another year of cricket, especially with the formation of deaf women’s cricket — all thanks to Melissa’s hard work and passion.

I also look forward to another year where I continue contributing back to the deaf community through voluntary and paid roles. I love being able to contribute back to the deaf community and inspiring the next generation of deaf and hard of hearing people. I look forward to continuing working with a rich variety of people – both deaf and hearing – to make the world a better place for everyone.

May 2019 be a year filled of dreams, love, adventures, and lessons for you. Thank you for being there for me throughout 2018, and I look forward to creating many more memories with you in the new year!

S xx

Editor's Pick

    Today’s the third day of Lockdown 6.0 and I’m still processing how I feel about this. I haven’t written in a while, and I thought it was high time I got back into blogging and doing what I love, writing. There’s nothing more cathartic than writing.

    Given we only exited Lockdown 5.0 just over a week ago, it feels as if we haven’t been given an opportunity to fully enjoy life post-lockdown before being ushered back into lockdown. How do we process our feelings and thoughts post-lockdown? We’ve barely had the time to process the last lockdown and its impact on us as individuals.

    When the announcement came on Thursday morning stating that Victoria would be going back into lockdown as of 8PM, I felt numb. I didn’t have any words to describe how I felt at the time. I thought I was okay about it, but if I have to be brutally honest, I’m not okay about it. Like everyone else, I barely had two days to get used to life post-lockdown after Lockdown 5.0 was lifted. Did I get used to post-lockdown life this time around? Probably not.

    Lockdown 6.0 is due to be lifted on Thursday night, but I’m not holding my breath. Delta, a variant of COVID-19, is a sneaky fucker. The transmission rate is higher compared to other COVID-19 variants. If the Victorian Government sees the need to extend this lockdown to get the pandemic under control, then so be it. NSW is seeing case numbers in the high 200s every day, and there’s no way Victoria wants to repeat what we went through last year.

    The real question remains: how do I feel about this?

    Defeated. It feels like this virus is determined to keep us at home, apart from our loved ones. I’ve been living on my own for 6 months and whilst I love it, I miss being around people. Fuck, I miss hugs. Human touch. Connection.

    Speaking of connection, I miss being with my fellow Deaf people. I miss getting my Deaf fix. Catching up with friends on FaceTime or Zoom is wonderful, but it doesn’t replace the feeling of being able to sign with your Deaf peers in person.

    Being able to see your language in its wondrous 3D form, like it’s supposed to be.

    That feeling you get when you laugh merrily with your friends. Laughing so much until you cry.

    Being present with your Deaf self whilst being with others.

    I’ve seen many older Deaf people reminiscence on the golden days of Deaf Clubs, and how they wish for Deaf Clubs once again. Having been through five (soon to be six because this one isn’t done) lockdowns, I can empathise with them on the loss of Deaf Clubs. Opportunities for us to get our Deaf fix are now rare.

    It’s funny how you don’t realise you miss something until it’s gone…and you realise you’ve taken it for granted.

    I wanted to be able to celebrate my birthday(s) with my loved ones, but I hesitated on making plans because of the uncertainty. I do still want to be able to let my hair down and hit the town at some point, to celebrate me with my loved ones.

    Goddamn it, I fucking miss being with people.

    As a Deaf person and professional, I also miss face-to-face appointments with Auslan interpreters. For more than 18 months, like many Deaf people who use Auslan interpreters, I’ve utilised video remote interpreting for personal or professional appointments. Whilst VRI is fantastic and has grown so much the last two years ago, I miss being able to engage with my interpreters in person. The opportunity to debrief and/or chat with the interpreter(s) afterwards is rare as hen’s teeth nowadays. These 10 minutes you get to connect with your interpreters – oh how that feels rather sentimental.

    Zoom closes. Interpreter moves onto their next job. I (or other Deaf person) move onto the next task or meeting.

    I do love being able to stay in touch with family and friends through social media, text messaging and video calls. It does get tiring at times – so I need to keep reminding myself that other people are doing their best to stay in touch too.

    It’s also hard to stay motivated during this time, too. I’ve had to put my platform – I Sign. I Wander., and Deaf Stories on hiatus – simply because I don’t have the motivation. I also have a few personal projects planned, but I haven’t been able to find the motivation to get started.

    I’ve been trying to stay kind to myself, but when things become repetitive, it gets to the point where I say “fuck this, I’m just doing the bare minimum“.

    I shower, I feed myself, I go to work (at home), and I make sure I am warm and healthy. I have things I can do around the house. I have books. I have Netflix.

    Until this outbreak eases, there’s not much I can do but to keep doing what I’ve been doing and to remain connected with my loved ones in ways that works the best for us.

    So, to say… I still don’t know how I feel. I’m getting there though. Maybe next time I write, I’ll have a better idea. But until then, I’ll continue processing this.

    See you on the flipside,

    S xx

     

    Deaf Stories was originally established with a vision of deaf people sharing their experiences as business owners. With Janelle Whalan as my filming assistant, we interviewed four deaf people – Neil Wood, Bobbie Blackson, and Ivan Callaghan & Nicole Cooke about their businesses. The first round of Deaf Stories was funded by Deaf Services’ Life Enrichment Grant which helped us to cover expenses such as travel, software, equipment and other costs associated with Deaf Stories.¬†

    After filming, editing and releasing each interview, the engagement from the deaf community I envisioned wasn’t happening. Something was missing.

    I saw there was a dire need for deaf people to share their stories on a public platform. With deaf clubs disappearing from our very own eyes, where were opportunities for deaf people to share their stories in a casual and relaxing environment? 

    One of my favourite memories from my childhood was when deaf children from various schools across Southeast Queensland would get together for a day to celebrate Deafness Awareness Week at New Farm Park in Brisbane. Every year I wound find myself sitting with my fellow deaf peers watching Julie Lyons tell stories through Auslan and visual vernacular. The feeling of being captivated and being taken into another world through a deaf person’s storytelling skills – that was something I carried with me for so many years. I still carry this feeling with me today.

    Deaf people are notorious for being excellent storytellers. This is because storytelling is a fundamental part of the deaf community. Ledwith (2011) stated that stories act as social-cultural glue, which means they define societies, cultures, and communities. Like sign language, storytelling acts as glue to bring the deaf community together.

    For the second round of Deaf Stories, I was planning on reframing it to include stories from various deaf people around the country. My original plans were thrown out of the window when Australia was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. With travel restrictions in place, this meant I was now unable to travel around the country collecting stories from deaf and hard of hearing Australians.

    The first couple of weeks in lockdown, I watched numerous creators change their plans and projects. I also saw a number of friends in the arts make changes to their projects. Everything had to be moved online. That gave me the idea: why not make Deaf Stories an online platform for the deaf community watch interviews happen in real time? Give the deaf community a sense of belonging, similar to being at a deaf club. Hence the decision to reframe it as Deaf Stories LIVE.

    The first Deaf Stories LIVE interview with Andrew Wiltshire was a huge success. I saw the engagement I had longed to achieve. I saw deaf, hard of hearing and hearing people respond to the interview. 

    Through the first interview, Andrew displayed his skills as a brilliant storyteller. According to Davis Haggerty (2007), being a skilled storyteller becomes an influential trait in the deaf community. Andrew is considered a role model to many deaf people. 

    Role models like Andrew are essential in the deaf community, particularly for young deaf people who are still figuring out their identities. Young deaf people should have access to role models within the deaf community, as Sutton-Spence (2010) believes it helps young deaf people to develop their personal, linguistic, and social identities.

    Novińá (2016) says deaf culture is founded on storytelling; it’s a culture obsessed with its own language.¬† With the use of sign language such as Auslan, we work on the art of storytelling in various forms such as poetry, visual vernacular, sign singing, etc. It’s not something that is perfected overnight; it takes a lot of practice and consultation by our fellow deaf peers to ensure the stories are easy to understand through Deaf eyes.

    Deaf people often learn best through storytelling. We are encouraged to participate through participation and understanding; belonging and confidence grows as we are listened to, valued and taken seriously (Ledwith, 2011). Without storytelling, how can change occur within the deaf community? How can we learn about the world around us? How can we connect with the deaf community using the Deaf experience?

    ‚ÄúWe tell our stories¬†to transform¬†ourselves; to learn about our history and tell our experiences to transcend them; to use our stories to make a difference in our world; to broaden our perspective¬†to see¬†further than normal;¬†to act¬†beyond a story that may have imprisoned or enslaved us;¬†to live more of our spiritual and earthly potential.‚ÄĚ ~ Rachel Freed (2011)

    Storytelling empowers deaf and hard of hearing people to share their experiences; to start discussion; and to create change within the community and in the mainstream. Change doesn’t occur without sharing personal stories. Stories also encourages us to connect with and understand each other better.¬†

    I strongly believe in the power of storytelling and it’s why I chose to frame Deaf Stories around the notion of storytelling we have come to know and enjoy for many years within the deaf community.

    In my next blog/vlog, I will be talking about vulnerability and why it’s an important element in storytelling.

    Big love, 
    S x

    References:
    Davis Haggerty, L. (2007). Storytelling and leadership in the Deaf community. Rochester Institute of Technology, USA.

    Freed, R. (2011). The Importance of Telling Our Stories.

    Ledwith, M. (2011). Chapter Three: Doing Community Development in Community Development – A Critical Approach.

    Novińá, S. (2016). At Home in Deaf Culture: Storytelling in an Un-Writable Language.

    Sutton-Spence, R. (2010). The Role of Sign Language Narratives in Developing Identity for Deaf Children. Journal of Folklore Research.


Leave A Comment

  1. Karthik Vijayanandam December 31, 2018 at 5:28 pm - Reply

    Loved reading this post. Happy new year to you ūüôā

  2. Robyn Whitney December 31, 2018 at 6:15 pm - Reply

    Loved this position so many things resonated with me, especially with time away from the deaf world and letting go of a certain family member in my life. Mwah to you and may 2019 be even more awesome!

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Related Posts

    Today’s the third day of Lockdown 6.0 and I’m still processing how I feel about this. I haven’t written in a while, and I thought it was high time I got back into blogging and doing what I love, writing. There’s nothing more cathartic than writing.

    Given we only exited Lockdown 5.0 just over a week ago, it feels as if we haven’t been given an opportunity to fully enjoy life post-lockdown before being ushered back into lockdown. How do we process our feelings and thoughts post-lockdown? We’ve barely had the time to process the last lockdown and its impact on us as individuals.

    When the announcement came on Thursday morning stating that Victoria would be going back into lockdown as of 8PM, I felt numb. I didn’t have any words to describe how I felt at the time. I thought I was okay about it, but if I have to be brutally honest, I’m not okay about it. Like everyone else, I barely had two days to get used to life post-lockdown after Lockdown 5.0 was lifted. Did I get used to post-lockdown life this time around? Probably not.

    Lockdown 6.0 is due to be lifted on Thursday night, but I’m not holding my breath. Delta, a variant of COVID-19, is a sneaky fucker. The transmission rate is higher compared to other COVID-19 variants. If the Victorian Government sees the need to extend this lockdown to get the pandemic under control, then so be it. NSW is seeing case numbers in the high 200s every day, and there’s no way Victoria wants to repeat what we went through last year.

    The real question remains: how do I feel about this?

    Defeated. It feels like this virus is determined to keep us at home, apart from our loved ones. I’ve been living on my own for 6 months and whilst I love it, I miss being around people. Fuck, I miss hugs. Human touch. Connection.

    Speaking of connection, I miss being with my fellow Deaf people. I miss getting my Deaf fix. Catching up with friends on FaceTime or Zoom is wonderful, but it doesn’t replace the feeling of being able to sign with your Deaf peers in person.

    Being able to see your language in its wondrous 3D form, like it’s supposed to be.

    That feeling you get when you laugh merrily with your friends. Laughing so much until you cry.

    Being present with your Deaf self whilst being with others.

    I’ve seen many older Deaf people reminiscence on the golden days of Deaf Clubs, and how they wish for Deaf Clubs once again. Having been through five (soon to be six because this one isn’t done) lockdowns, I can empathise with them on the loss of Deaf Clubs. Opportunities for us to get our Deaf fix are now rare.

    It’s funny how you don’t realise you miss something until it’s gone…and you realise you’ve taken it for granted.

    I wanted to be able to celebrate my birthday(s) with my loved ones, but I hesitated on making plans because of the uncertainty. I do still want to be able to let my hair down and hit the town at some point, to celebrate me with my loved ones.

    Goddamn it, I fucking miss being with people.

    As a Deaf person and professional, I also miss face-to-face appointments with Auslan interpreters. For more than 18 months, like many Deaf people who use Auslan interpreters, I’ve utilised video remote interpreting for personal or professional appointments. Whilst VRI is fantastic and has grown so much the last two years ago, I miss being able to engage with my interpreters in person. The opportunity to debrief and/or chat with the interpreter(s) afterwards is rare as hen’s teeth nowadays. These 10 minutes you get to connect with your interpreters – oh how that feels rather sentimental.

    Zoom closes. Interpreter moves onto their next job. I (or other Deaf person) move onto the next task or meeting.

    I do love being able to stay in touch with family and friends through social media, text messaging and video calls. It does get tiring at times – so I need to keep reminding myself that other people are doing their best to stay in touch too.

    It’s also hard to stay motivated during this time, too. I’ve had to put my platform – I Sign. I Wander., and Deaf Stories on hiatus – simply because I don’t have the motivation. I also have a few personal projects planned, but I haven’t been able to find the motivation to get started.

    I’ve been trying to stay kind to myself, but when things become repetitive, it gets to the point where I say “fuck this, I’m just doing the bare minimum“.

    I shower, I feed myself, I go to work (at home), and I make sure I am warm and healthy. I have things I can do around the house. I have books. I have Netflix.

    Until this outbreak eases, there’s not much I can do but to keep doing what I’ve been doing and to remain connected with my loved ones in ways that works the best for us.

    So, to say… I still don’t know how I feel. I’m getting there though. Maybe next time I write, I’ll have a better idea. But until then, I’ll continue processing this.

    See you on the flipside,

    S xx

     

    Deaf Stories was originally established with a vision of deaf people sharing their experiences as business owners. With Janelle Whalan as my filming assistant, we interviewed four deaf people – Neil Wood, Bobbie Blackson, and Ivan Callaghan & Nicole Cooke about their businesses. The first round of Deaf Stories was funded by Deaf Services’ Life Enrichment Grant which helped us to cover expenses such as travel, software, equipment and other costs associated with Deaf Stories.¬†

    After filming, editing and releasing each interview, the engagement from the deaf community I envisioned wasn’t happening. Something was missing.

    I saw there was a dire need for deaf people to share their stories on a public platform. With deaf clubs disappearing from our very own eyes, where were opportunities for deaf people to share their stories in a casual and relaxing environment? 

    One of my favourite memories from my childhood was when deaf children from various schools across Southeast Queensland would get together for a day to celebrate Deafness Awareness Week at New Farm Park in Brisbane. Every year I wound find myself sitting with my fellow deaf peers watching Julie Lyons tell stories through Auslan and visual vernacular. The feeling of being captivated and being taken into another world through a deaf person’s storytelling skills – that was something I carried with me for so many years. I still carry this feeling with me today.

    Deaf people are notorious for being excellent storytellers. This is because storytelling is a fundamental part of the deaf community. Ledwith (2011) stated that stories act as social-cultural glue, which means they define societies, cultures, and communities. Like sign language, storytelling acts as glue to bring the deaf community together.

    For the second round of Deaf Stories, I was planning on reframing it to include stories from various deaf people around the country. My original plans were thrown out of the window when Australia was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. With travel restrictions in place, this meant I was now unable to travel around the country collecting stories from deaf and hard of hearing Australians.

    The first couple of weeks in lockdown, I watched numerous creators change their plans and projects. I also saw a number of friends in the arts make changes to their projects. Everything had to be moved online. That gave me the idea: why not make Deaf Stories an online platform for the deaf community watch interviews happen in real time? Give the deaf community a sense of belonging, similar to being at a deaf club. Hence the decision to reframe it as Deaf Stories LIVE.

    The first Deaf Stories LIVE interview with Andrew Wiltshire was a huge success. I saw the engagement I had longed to achieve. I saw deaf, hard of hearing and hearing people respond to the interview. 

    Through the first interview, Andrew displayed his skills as a brilliant storyteller. According to Davis Haggerty (2007), being a skilled storyteller becomes an influential trait in the deaf community. Andrew is considered a role model to many deaf people. 

    Role models like Andrew are essential in the deaf community, particularly for young deaf people who are still figuring out their identities. Young deaf people should have access to role models within the deaf community, as Sutton-Spence (2010) believes it helps young deaf people to develop their personal, linguistic, and social identities.

    Novińá (2016) says deaf culture is founded on storytelling; it’s a culture obsessed with its own language.¬† With the use of sign language such as Auslan, we work on the art of storytelling in various forms such as poetry, visual vernacular, sign singing, etc. It’s not something that is perfected overnight; it takes a lot of practice and consultation by our fellow deaf peers to ensure the stories are easy to understand through Deaf eyes.

    Deaf people often learn best through storytelling. We are encouraged to participate through participation and understanding; belonging and confidence grows as we are listened to, valued and taken seriously (Ledwith, 2011). Without storytelling, how can change occur within the deaf community? How can we learn about the world around us? How can we connect with the deaf community using the Deaf experience?

    ‚ÄúWe tell our stories¬†to transform¬†ourselves; to learn about our history and tell our experiences to transcend them; to use our stories to make a difference in our world; to broaden our perspective¬†to see¬†further than normal;¬†to act¬†beyond a story that may have imprisoned or enslaved us;¬†to live more of our spiritual and earthly potential.‚ÄĚ ~ Rachel Freed (2011)

    Storytelling empowers deaf and hard of hearing people to share their experiences; to start discussion; and to create change within the community and in the mainstream. Change doesn’t occur without sharing personal stories. Stories also encourages us to connect with and understand each other better.¬†

    I strongly believe in the power of storytelling and it’s why I chose to frame Deaf Stories around the notion of storytelling we have come to know and enjoy for many years within the deaf community.

    In my next blog/vlog, I will be talking about vulnerability and why it’s an important element in storytelling.

    Big love, 
    S x

    References:
    Davis Haggerty, L. (2007). Storytelling and leadership in the Deaf community. Rochester Institute of Technology, USA.

    Freed, R. (2011). The Importance of Telling Our Stories.

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    Novińá, S. (2016). At Home in Deaf Culture: Storytelling in an Un-Writable Language.

    Sutton-Spence, R. (2010). The Role of Sign Language Narratives in Developing Identity for Deaf Children. Journal of Folklore Research.