BORDER councillors showed they won’t just be paying lip service when they welcome 1000 hearing impaired sportspeople in 100 days’ time.
Albury deputy mayor Amanda Cohn demonstrated her recently-acquired Auslan ability when discussing January’s Australian Deaf Games in Albury-Wodonga.
Cr Cohn said her six-week Auslan (Australian sign language) course had been a fantastic experience.
“It’s not hard to pick up basic things like ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘please’ and ‘thank-you’ and to maybe spell your name so it would be a great thing for people to do before the Deaf Games,” she said.
Not only would this make a difference to the visiting competitors, it would help hearing impaired people who lived and worked on the Border.
“It’s such an exciting opportunity for us all to do better and be more inclusive,” Cr Cohn said.
Remembering the importance of faces not just hands proved her biggest Auslan challenge.
“I learned that the facial expression is actually part of the sign a lot of the time and when I’m nervous and trying to think of the sign, I don’t make the right facial expression to go with the sign, for example you should always smile when you sign ‘happy’.”
Never before had the Australian Deaf Games, held since 1964, been hosted by two cities at once.
Wodonga mayor Anna Speedie expected the games to generate millions of dollars for the Border economy.
“We know that with our two cities we can actually host much larger events,” she said. “Our stadiums, our pools, our tennis courts et cetera are maintained at an incredibly high level.”
Deaf Sports Australia’s Sherrie Beaver said the preparations had included increased interest and enrolments in Auslan classes and even waiting lists.
“We’re seeing a lot more enthusiasm from the community welcoming deaf participants to the games,” she said.
Ms Beaver said she was pleased young Border athletes – possible deaf Olympians of the future – could join the competition.
“We’re going to be able to attract them, see what their skills are, and I’m sure that they’re going to be representing their local, state, national teams in different sports,” she said.
“It helps them feel good about themselves and also they’re able to participate in sports with people who are like themselves.
“Identify with those people and also identify what they can do in the future.”
The games begin on January 20, with the draft schedule including athletics, basketball, swimming, tennis, touch football, cricket, netball, soccer, rugby sevens and table tennis.