Kelly in the Media

Kelly Vincent – Vision Australia Interview on the Need for Auslan Interpreters in Emergency Broadcasts

On Saturday 17 September, Dignity for Disability MLC Kelly Vincent was interviewed on radio station Vision Australia where she discussed recent events that highlighted the lack of Auslan interpreters being used during live emergency broadcasts. Here is the transcript and audio from the interview.

Peter Greco: Kelly Vincent is member for Dignity for Disability in the South Australia Legislative Council. Kelly, welcome to you.

Kelly Vincent: Thank you Peter, good to be with you.

Peter Greco: Now it’s been a pretty unpleasant week for many people in South Australia with the rains and the floods etc. and you’re a little bit concerned regarding the lack of Auslan messaging in some of the messages that have gone out from emergency services.

Kelly Vincent: That’s right. You’ll remember Peter I think we spoke about this when it happened last year – Dignity for Disability worked very hard to get the government to put a change in the State Emergency Plan to ensure that Auslan (Australian Sign Language) would be available in all live televised information and warnings about natural emergencies such as bushfires and floods and this originally happened because of the Sampson Flat bushfires where there wasn’t Auslan interpreters available for some conferences and then some there were. So we tried to get this moved through with the hope that it would result in more consistency. And yet on the 14th of September, when the initial announcement was made about the flood situation, no Auslan interpreter was available and that’s very disappointing.

Peter Greco: Now the Minister for Emergency Services response I thought was a little bit – well should we say – limp. Saying that they didn’t think it was going to be quite as bad as it was, or something along those lines?

Kelly Vincent: Absolutely and this is I think really quite outrageous and I’m hoping to meet with Minister Malinauskas very soon to set the record straight on this. It doesn’t matter how severe the situation is, if it is a natural emergency that could threaten people’s safety, Deaf people who use Auslan need to be aware because ok, it might not be life threatening but if you had that information you could make decisions about maybe moving your pets or knowing that your friends and family were ok or making sure that they knew you were ok or that your neighbours were aware that you might need so extra help to communicate if something did get worse. Nothing in the change that has gone through talks about the severity of the situation, it simply says that all live televised warnings or major public announcements e.g. attended by the premier or state coordinator and state controller must use an accredited Auslan interpreter. And to be fair there is a clause in there that talks about if securing an interpreter might unfairly delay the announcements in going ahead, we understand that to an extent because you know, we understand that situations can change very quickly and people need to be kept informed but as I said Peter, I’ve just read it out to you and there is nothing in there, as far as I can see about the severity of the situation. It’s just if there is something is happening, Auslan interpreters need to be made available.

Peter Greco: If there’s going to be an announcement made – then that’s serious enough. Isn’t it?

Kelly Vincent: Absolutely. That’s a very good point. We’re not talking about Minister Malinauskas making an interpreter available every time he stubs his toe. You know this is something that the government has obviously thought is serious enough to let everyone else know, so why not Deaf people as well.

Peter Greco: Is it that difficult to get an Auslan interpreter, I mean I guess if its short notice it could be a little bit challenging?

Kelly Vincent: Look, certainly we don’t deny that – we certainly recognise that in Dignity for Disability that there are maybe going to be times when it might not be immediately feasible to have it available. I think there are about 25 Auslan interpreters working in South Australia, if memory serves me correctly. The government does now because of this change in policy, have a memorandum of understanding with organisations like Deaf Can Do to make sure that they will do all that they can do to make themselves available. So yes there’s not a great number of Auslan interpreters, it is a small field to be working in. There are situations where it is going to be very difficult but I’m telling you those interpreters who do work in this field are very, very passionate and will do everything possible to make themselves available as long as the government tells them, as they are required to in accordance with this policy change that they need to be available so it’s very disappointing that they weren’t given that opportunity to do that job that they are very good at and passionate about.

Peter Greco: That’s a great point. Now that was on the 14th of September, on the Wednesday. I believe on the Thursday that sort of situation, in a sense, was remedied but perhaps the Auslan interpretation wasn’t captured as it could have been anyway?

Kelly Vincent: That’s right. That’s right, that a good point Peter because it’s one thing to have an Auslan interpreter there as there was the next day for the next announcement but reports that I’ve heard from Deaf people who rely on that interpreter were telling me that the interpreter was often cut out of frame by the camera operator who was zooming in on the Minister or the premier or whoever it was who was speaking, I don’t quite recall. So that goes to show that Auslan interpreters are there but also that camera operators and other staff get the training to be aware that they need to keep that interpreter in the frame. So it’s one thing to have the interpreter there but we still have a long way to go in terms of maximising those interpreters when they are there as well.

Peter Greco: I guess on a broader scale is that one of the challenging things about your role – which you know because those of us who are involved with disability live with it every day, we sort of know this stuff. But sometimes it never ceases to amaze you how many people don’t know about it – your job is sort of never done, is it?

Kelly Vincent: No that’s right, that’s right. I’m very passionate about changing those perceptions and those assumptions that people can make about people with disabilities and in fact in an ideal world I look very much forward to putting myself out of a job. It’s not something you hear politicians say very often. But I don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon, in terms of us reaching that critical point of awareness and understanding about the diversity in our communities, so we have a long way to go. I look forward to sit down with Minister Malinauskas to make sure he’s aware about how to do his job to make sure we can advance that further.

Peter Greco: Well Kelly you can probably afford to get out of being in politics, you’re a talented person in other areas. Maybe most politicians haven’t got other talents and hold onto their jobs as long as they can.

Kelly Vincent: Your words Peter not mine.

Peter Greco: Kelly, keep up the good fight. As I said, it’s sort of sometimes almost bemusing the fact that people aren’t as aware as they should be but I guess as long as people like you are around, raising this awareness more and more people do become knowledgeable of it. So keep up the fight and we’ll chat again soon.

Kelly Vincent: Thank you Peter, likewise. Always good to be with you and I look forward in keeping you informed when hopefully I have the chance to meet with the Minister about this and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Peter Greco: Yep. Good work. Thanks Kelly.

Kelly Vincent: Thank you.