Auslan Interpreters in action throughout the bushfire crisis

Image: A Deaf Interpreter from the EMIT interprets Vic Emergency CEO Andrew Crisp's message into Auslan.

The Australian bushfire crisis has affected everyone around Australia and will leave its mark on the communities affected for some time to come. At least 33 people have been killed including 4 firefighters and more than 11 million hectares of bush, forest and parks across Australia has burned. 

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews declared a State of Disaster for some regions of Victoria affected by fires for a period in early January. With vital information like this being communicated by livestream, on the news and online, Expression Australia's Emergency and Media Interpreting Team (EMIT) were at every briefing providing access to information for the Deaf community. 

Also working at these briefings, were several experienced Deaf interpreters who provided Deaf community members with an alternate form of communication that can be understood by those not using standard Auslan. Having a team like the EMIT is critical in providing clear and easy to understand messages that are potentially lifesaving for the Deaf community. 

Like many Deaf Australians, Expression Australia's President, Gavin Balharrie found himself in a dangerous situation this summer when he was holidaying in Mallacoota with his family, just before bushfires impacted the area.  

“Whilst we were getting information from many sources including the terrific CFA app ‘VicEmergency’, it was absolutely critical that we were receiving the information in Auslan to convey the seriousness of the impeding bushfires”, Gavin explained.  

“Without this information, we would not have made the decision to evacuate in a 2-hour window of time provided to us prior to the bushfires impacting Mallacoota 6 hours later.” 

Expression Australia is proud to be playing our part in ensuring that the EMIT have the skills and experience to interpret these messages in emergency situations.   

“We are proud of our partnership with Emergency Management Victoria (EMV)", Brent Phillips, Director, Language, Partnerships and Innovation said. 

"This ensures Deaf Auslan users and their support networks are not left behind in times of emergency, through the provision of Auslan interpreting on TV. We’d like to acknowledge EMV’s commitment to ensuring Deaf and hard of hearing people are not excluded and look forward to to building on our strong partnership”. 


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