Ausnew Home Care | 'I might go deaf but I'm not worried': Victorian

'I might go deaf but I'm not worried': Victorian family proves that going deaf is nothing to fear

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Nia Harrison was born into a family where being deaf was nothing out of the ordinary — her mother, aunt and grandmother are all deaf, as is her best friend Cate.

There is a chance that Nia will go deaf too, due to a hereditary condition that causes hearing loss later in life — but thanks to her deaf role models, the idea does not worry her.

"I've been lucky enough to grow up with successful, strong, deaf women all around me," she said.

"I am not deaf — but my mum is. And my aunty, and my grandma.

Co-CEO of People with Disability Australia, Therese Sands, said that most of the issues faced by the deaf community are to do with lack of services and not the hearing impairment itself.

"This can include physical infrastructure and communications barriers, as well as outright discrimination."

Leading the way with signing choir

Nia's mother, Buffy Harrison, is a shining example of deafness opening doors, rather than closing them.

She is the conductor of the Horsham Primary School Signing Choir, which performs songs from Billy Joel to Louis Armstrong, all using the sign language of Australia's deaf community, Auslan.

Unlike a regular choir, it is not voices that steal the show, but the dancing hands of the performers.

members of the choir at rehearsal. Ausnew Home Care, NDIS registered provider, My Aged Care
Nia and Cate (centre) with members of the choir led by Nia's mum Buffy, at rehearsal at Horsham Primary School.(

ABC Western Victoria: Emily Bissland


Their faces also morph to match the words and emotion of the music as dexterously as their hands.

Nia's best friend Cate, who is deaf, also used to be in the choir.

Nia used to perform with them too and said that watching the students perform can be a moving experience.

"Lots of people seem to cry, which I never understood when I was on stage, but now that I am older and in the audience, I get it," Nia said.

Teaching the hearing community a new language

None of the current choristers are deaf, but take part simply as a fun extracurricular activity.

The choir has now performed over 65 shows to date, including the local Carols by Candlelight and charity events such as Relay for Life.

"The choir is always in high demand," Nia said.

That means the choir has given countless people the chance to witness to the beauty of Auslan in song, and, according to Nia, helped educate the local community on deafness.

Whole groups of the students that take part in the choir each year come away knowing a new language.

Nia said that if Auslan was offered in more schools around the country, it would be a huge win for both the deaf and hearing communities.

"Teaching it to everyone also opens opportunities for more Auslan interpreters — which is another fantastic thing."

As the rollout of the NDIS progresses, Auslan interpreters will need to be more readily available for deaf and hard of hearing people who use Auslan as their primary language, according to Ms Sands.

"One in five Australians have some kind of disability and we believe that in a socially just, accessible and inclusive community, all people with disability are recognised, respected and celebrated with pride," Ms Sands said.

Nia and Cate filming the story for TV
Nia, who was also a winner of ABC's Heywire youth project is kept busy filming her story with her best friend Cate.(

Supplied: Buffy Harrison


Nia has no shortage of pride for her deaf lineage.

"I am not deaf and the idea of going deaf doesn't worry me," she said.

"If it happens, there'll just be another successful, strong, deaf woman in my family, and in the Horsham community."


Source: ABC

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