Ausnew Home Care | Deaf choir master inspires others to take up

Deaf choir master inspires others to take up Auslan, with help from coronavirus and Lorde

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Tallula Bourne was born deaf and did not properly hear music until she received cochlear implants at age 12.

"I can clearly remember before and after that turning point — it was a really big deal," she said.

"I didn't understand music because I'd never really heard it properly, but now I love it so much."

Lorde was the first pop star Ms Bourne properly heard and inspired her to embark on a career making music accessible to people of mixed hearing abilities.

"I was basically sailing blind in a wild sea," she said.

"Now, I know so many Lorde songs off by heart and I can recognise her music as soon as it's turned on, and that's amazing."

The 20-year-old recently became a choir master and runs weekly online classes from her home in Ocean Shores in northern New South Wales.

She is joined by about 20 choir members from across Australia who are learning how to perform Lorde's song Team in Auslan (Australian sign language).

Screenshot of AUSLAN Zoom class with participants pointing to their thumbs. Ausnew Home Care, NDIS registered provider, My Aged Care
Moving AUSLAN classes online has allowed Tallula Bourne to reach more students.(

ABC North Coast: Samantha Turnbull


"If Lorde was to see us signing Team, I hope she'd really like what I've done with the song and see that we have so much fun dancing and singing to it," Ms Bourne said.

"I'd say [to Lorde], 'I'm totally available if you want to do a music video with Auslan'."

COVID-19 presents opportunity

Ms Bourne's choir is supported by the Sprung Integrated Dance Theatre, whose facilitator, Katie Cooper-Wares, said coronavirus and social distancing regulations meant choir classes had to take place online.

"We've been trying to get an Auslan group together for quite a while, but there's just that usual thing of everyone is so busy and we all live so far away from each other," she said.

"We've used this time as an opportunity to reach out to broader communities, even nationwide, so it's been great in that sense."

Che Pritchard and Asher Bowen-Saunders join the classes from the Gold Coast.

"Auslan is actually one of the most ideal things to teach online because access is not an issue for most people," Ms Bowen-Saunders said.

Young woman with hands in the air and palms facing forward, making AUSLAN sign for applause
Tallula Bourne says her favourite part of teaching AUSLAN is watching people's joy when they pick it up.(

ABC North Coast: Samantha Turnbull


Mr Pritchard said Ms Bourne herself was the main drawcard.

"She has a lot of really good teaching techniques, she's super engaged, and her pace is really good for everyone," he said.

"I just love seeing all the participants get really excited, especially Tallula."

Making music accessible

Ms Bourne said teaching online was daunting at first, particularly because she sometimes struggled with layered sound.

"It can be difficult to hear one person when multiple people are talking at once, but thankfully there is a mute button."

But the classes have proven so successful, that she said they would continue to run online post-COVID-19.

"I love watching people start to understand the language and I love how they all keep coming back week after week.

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