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Deaf Awareness at Kaarakin

Deaf Awareness at Kaarakin

Kaarakin is proud to promote Deaf Awareness Month! Melinda, is a volunteer at Kaarakin Black Cockatoo Conservation Centre. She is profoundly deaf however she wears a hearing aid and can both lipread and speak well. And Neville, who uses sign language as his everyday communication, is one of Melinda’s colleagues at Australia Post.

They are both very enthusiastic about presenting Kaarakin to the deaf community. They will also be sharing their experience and how they are being integrated at work or when volunteering.

Melinda’s experience as a volunteer

Melinda first heard about Kaarakin through the local community paper and attended an open day in July 2015. She’s been a wildlife carer since the age of 17 and had worked for Roleystone Wildlife Shelter.

She found the introduction to Kaarakin welcoming which helped her settled in comfortably. All volunteers are friendly and caring. She’s made a lot of friends at Kaarakin, like Brigette.

Working for Kaarakin is an enjoyment for Melinda. She loves working in a bush environment and appreciates the clean and fresh air. One of the highlight is off course the black cockatoos who are always happy to see volunteers. “And that makes our work even more rewarding” says Melinda.

Melinda and Neville at Kaarakin
Melinda & Neville have been friends for many years.

The integration of Melinda and Neville at their workplace

The below article deals in more details about Melinda’s and Neville’s experience in the workplace amongst the hearing community. It highlights how simple steps can make integration easier for deaf or hard hearing people.

Melinda and Neville have both been working for Australia Post at Perth Mail Centre Facility, PMC. Melinda has been there for nearly 20 years and Neville has worked there for 8 years.

They have been lucky to be recognised in their workplace, at Australia Post where their Manager, Rikki Richmann have listened to their needs for better communication.

Deafness Awareness is recognised worldwide in September. This is a vital time where deaf people can introduce themselves and teach the hearing community the best ways to communicate with the deaf community.

Melinda, Paula and Neville in the Kaarakin Interactive Aviary
Paula Norman has been interpreting during Australia Post’s meeting for Melinda & Neville. It has been bridging the gap in communication.

How to best interact with a deaf person

When speaking to a deaf person, please do it face to face:

  1. No obstruction covering your mouth when talking (hand/food)
  2. Make sure you speak in a well-lit area so a deaf person can see and read your lips
  3. Do not speak slowly or shout as this can make communication more difficult
  4. Use facial expressions and body language when possible
  5. Be patient if a deaf person don’t get it the first time as we all have different shapes of lips or may have an accent or a deaf person could be unable to concentrate well due to tiredness, etc.
  6. Write a note on the spot if all else fails

Melinda and Neville would like to highlight the fact that we need to recognise each individual deaf people has their special way of signing. No sign language is right or wrong or perfect.  “Some deaf people sign strongly in Auslan however some of us do mixture of Auslan and English and that is also okay” both of them add.

Melinda and Paula at Kaarakin
Melinda & Paula

Born deaf

Neville was born deaf as her mother became infected with Rubella (German Measles) during her pregnancy. Neville is not able to use the voice telephone to contact technicians at work.

He has difficulty in communicating with cashiers at shopping centres. They don’t understand that they need to look up at him when speaking to him. “They see me as normal but I have special needs” says Neville. “When I’m with hearing people they all chatter amongst themselves and I feel left out”. When they laugh, he feels even more left out, however he knows it is not intended.

Melinda was born deaf. Her father and her two sisters were also born deaf. Her mother was the only hearing member of the family. Growing up at home, they learnt to talk and sign. “In the 80’s we mostly read books such as Enid Blyton novels as television those days did not have closed captions” says Melinda.

“Disadvantages of being deaf are that we may slam doors without realising it, raise our voices without knowing and not lifting our feet off the floor. However, this can be learnt through practice behaviour if desired by trying not to be too loud by closing doors carefully and so on”, Melinda adds.

Deaf culture is direct in their language meaning that “we can be direct in our words which can appear to be blunt to the hearing ears.” Deaf people cannot hear how hearing people engage in their smooth flow of conversation and that’s why it can sound like they are abruptly side tracking a group from their discussion into entirely something else.

According to Melinda, the advantages of being deaf is that “we can lip read well and read people’s body languages and their moods easily. Yes, we don’t hear accents or their tone of voices. We sleep soundly so you can snore loudly or the dogs can bark all they like!! We are more aware and alert in our surroundings. We can lip read what others are saying to others in the distant!”

Neville with a black cockatoo
Neville enjoyed his first time interacting with black cockatoos

Recognising the need of deaf people and integrating them in the workplace is essential

Kaarakin Interactive Aviary
All three enjoyed spending time in the interactive aviary at Kaarakin after the filming.

“We have been lucky to be recognised in our workplace where both Angus Becsi and Rikki Richmann have provided us an interpreter for our training courses and weekly meetings at work. This has helped us enormously by bridging the gap in communication between deaf and hearing employees” explain Melinda and Neville.

They are now able to feel involved and part of the team at Australia Post. This has helped Melinda getting out of her comfort zone and empowers her to volunteer at Kaarakin. This has been a great experience for all the team who worked on this video. Special thanks to the crew: Brigette, Cathy, Anne, Paula and Paula Norman, the interpreter. They assisted by making Melinda and Neville comfortable and helped keep the black cockatoos from chewing the camera.

And for our videographer, Celine, well she started learning Auslan and is attending a beginner’s course: “ Kaarakin is truly an amazing place, it’s such an eye opener to be able to work on so many unique and original projects!”.

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