ANU Auslan Club winning the 2023 Young Canberra Citizen of the Year

ANU Auslan Club winning the 2023 Young Canberra Citizen of the Year
Image: Charlotte Young, ANU student and co-founder of ANU Auslan Club
Thursday 2 May 2024

Navigating the world can be hard when there’s a communication barrier, but that’s something students from the ANU Auslan Club are trying to change.

Founded in January 2023, by Dr Gemma King, Senior Lecturer and French Program Convenor in the ANU School of Literature, Language and Linguistics, Charlotte Young, ANU student and youth disability advocate, and other likeminded students, the ANU Auslan Club teaches students introductory Australian Sign Language (Auslan). 

When discussing the origins of the club, Charlotte Young said, "Everybody had a different personal connection to the club and reason for why they wanted to help found it.  For example, I have hearing loss, so for a long time, I've had this weird feeling where I've been part of the deaf community, but I've never actually been able to speak to another deaf person in their own language. 

“I always felt that it was weird that I never had the capacity to learn Auslan within high school or anything, so I thought okay, I'm going to start now.

“I felt that I never really had enough experience to jump straight into a certification or formal classes, so I wanted an easy way to test it out, see if I liked it." and that's where the ANU Auslan Club came in.

Teaching not only deaf language but deaf culture, Young noted "we wanted to ensure that everything we did was supported by the deaf community, and in line with their cultural values. So we had a deaf advisory board and we ran everything through them."

“Essentially we wanted to add to the deaf ecosystem positively, and that includes things like supporting employment and networks for deaf, hard of hearing and other Auslan [speaking] people”.

Thanks to financial backing from the ANU Student Union, the club was able to subsidise its courses. Teaching over 200 students last year alone, the club have grown the overall number of signers in the ACT by 5%.

This incredible achievement was recognised by the ACT Government, the group winning the 2023 Young Canberra Citizen of the Year – Group Award, which recognises “a group of young people who have worked together to provide a service, program or project, which has results in positive, youth-led changes in the ACT Community.”

"It really felt like those small steps, and those small changes that we make in a community can make a really big difference, and they do matter. So it was really nice to have government support on that." Young said.

With an incredible inaugural year under its belt, the club continues to offer free social memberships and events as well as introductory classes, with the goal to “see it continue to thrive, continue to build momentum and continue cultural learning in a friendly community.”  

Follow the ANU Auslan Club on Instagram and Facebook, plus head to the website to join or purchase merchandise.

This article is republished from the ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences website. Read the original article.

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Updated:  29 May 2024/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications