For Darwin local Annabel Bishop, trying to access an Auslan interpreter to assist her with everyday tasks has been frustrating.
- There is not one full-time Auslan interpreter to help deaf people communicate in the Northern Territory
- The NT government has announced $360,000 in funding to help fill a full-time position
- A new scholarship program aims to boost the number of NT-based interpreters
"Mostly [I struggle with] health appointments, specialist appointments and even in the workplace," Ms Bishop said.
There are around 600 Auslan interpreters across Australia, but none of them is based in the Northern Territory.
The NT's only full-time Auslan interpreter resigned in 2019 and the role was defunded shortly afterwards.
Since then, Ms Bishop has been forced to rely on Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) technology, which allows deaf people to access an Auslan interpreter remotely via a laptop, smartphone or tablet.
However, she said, it does not replace the need for face-to-face communication.
"[Auslan] is a 3D, visual-spatial language," she said.
Now the Northern Territory government is hoping to close the gap, announcing $360,000 in funding over three years for Deaf Services and the Deaf Society to recruit a full-time, NT-based Auslan interpreter.
"The recent COVID-19 lockdowns highlighted the need to have Auslan Interpreter in the NT to deliver important public messages to the deaf community," the Minister for Disabilities, Kate Worden, said.
"[That interpreter] will provide support for deaf and hard-of-hearing Territorians, across a range of government services: in health, justice, family support and public messaging during emergencies."
Recruitment kicks off
Deaf Services and the Deaf Society will begin targeted recruitment for the NAATI-credentialed Auslan interpreter immediately and aims to fill the position by the end of the year.
The chief executive of Deaf Services and the Deaf Society, Brett Casey, said the interpreter would play a crucial role in public messaging, particularly given the upcoming cyclone season.
"During cyclones or COVID updates, it is important for the deaf community … to have access to information," Mr Casey said.
"Nothing can replace that physical interpreter on the ground for deaf people."
The NT government is also providing almost $90,000 to fund a scholarship program for Territorians to be rolled out by YouthWorX NT.
As part of the program, four people will be able to take part in an 18-month nationally recognised Auslan interpreter course.
It is hoped the scholarship program will help boost the number of locally-based interpreters to be able to service the needs of the NT's deaf community.
"We will be looking at scholarships for those initially who have some Auslan proficiency," said Liz Reid AM from YouthWorX NT.
"This is just the first step. There is great potential."
Brisbane-based Auslan interpreter Duke Moolenaar said his job was rewarding.
"I have a deaf family, so Auslan is my first language," he said.
"The variety interpreting brings you and the variety of settings that you find yourself in, such as hospitals, justice, education … there's a lot of opportunity in this career."