National Week of Deaf People: Olivia's Story
As Expression Australia’s Youth Engagement Officer, Olivia Beasley is well equipped to reach out to the Deaf community to ensure that young Deaf and hard of hearing people receive the right service and support.
Growing up in a Deaf family has given Olivia a unique perspective. She communicates via Auslan at home with her siblings and parents (who are also Deaf), but progressing through school, using Auslan wasn’t accessible in mainstream society. Olivia, like many Deaf and hard of hearing people, learnt to adapt to the hearing world where Auslan, is little known.
“I always feel included with my family because we all communicate through Auslan, our native language, but in the hearing world I don’t feel any sense of belonging because people can’t communicate with me via Auslan,” Olivia shared.
Lately, Olivia has been heavily involved with Youth Parliament, joining the Deafhood team in 2017. With her team, she wrote and proposed a bill addressing the need to have better accessibility within the Victorian’s public transportation system.
Her experience with Youth Parliament led Olivia to run for the Victorian Youth Governor, where she was elected to improve the program and work with young people. She aims to find and address the gaps in accessibility for youths from cultural backgrounds, with disabilities and promote gender equality.
Olivia is excelling in her roles and acknowledges that her drive comes from her Deaf identity,
“Without my Deaf identity, I wouldn’t have the passion or the strength to fight for change that breaks down the barriers and allows equal opportunity for all.”
As Expression Australia celebrates National Week of Deaf People (23 – 29 September) and the first ever International Day of Sign Language (23 September), Olivia explains that the theme for this year highlights the importance of access and inclusion for Deaf people.
“If Deaf people receive information in a spoken language, it will bear very little importance. However, if the information is communicated via sign language as well, through an Auslan interpreter or directly from the communicator themselves, it means that Deaf people will receive equal information. It’s the idea of the full sense of inclusion instead of being included.”
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