DCA was pleased to host the 150th anniversary celebration of our historic Bluestone Building on 13 October 2016, where we heard from past and current students and discussed the history of our organisation. Dr Breda Carty offered a wonderful explanation of the key issues Deaf education has faced and had some lovely words to say about DCA and its goals. Read the speech from Dr Carty below.
“Thank you for your invitation. Some of you will remember I used to work here at different times. So, I am going to talk about deaf education. I won’t carry on and on and on today. But I will pick a few poignant times that deaf education in the wider context especially this place, this organisation that you all know. So, I picked a few things here. Dean has explained how the organisation started and began with FJ Rose, the man from England, noticing in the newspaper an advert for teaching deaf children. In the wider context, FJ Rose was from England, yes. He bought with him his English traditions of education. It is important to remember that it was all very new, deaf education at that time. There were no historical backgrounds for deaf education. As you know, they established the first deaf school and it was very small in Scotland in 1760. It was only for rich children and those who could pay for the service. There was a deaf school for children set up in 1800. FJ Rose saw the newspaper in 1860 and decided that yes, deaf schools were a new thing. He thought that was something he could do in Australia.
FJ Rose grew up and went to school in England. He brought with him traditions and experiences. There were three things that I think were very important. He was a teacher and he had a deaf teacher at the time. The second thing that was important is how the school in England taught at that time – the combined method. That was the way they taught. The third thing that is important to remember is how the school children and the deaf community interacted and worked together. They brought with them a very strong relationship base from England at that time. Deaf education was established from a deaf community that was very supportive and very strong from the deaf schools that were quite large in the UK. Myself, as a deaf person, I can relate to that. There are many examples of that over time, over the past 150 years. However, it is impossible for me to talk about each and every one of them. We know that FJ Rose was a deaf teacher from here and he also established the Deaf Society, the deaf community organisations, they all used to go to the Deaf Society as well. So there was education, deaf community and a Deaf Society. One interesting thing for us to remember is that deaf education started in the 1860s – but deaf education for children was not compulsory in those days. Parents sometimes didn’t send their children to be educated if they were deaf but it did become compulsory in 1910 here in Victoria. So for the first time, it was the first state of Australia to have compulsory education, and then soon after New South Wales followed, but Victoria was the first.
So, compulsory education was ratified and supported, and who lobbied for that? It was the deaf organisations and parents themselves and the community, the deaf community wanted it – it was the Australasian Deaf Association. So there they wrote copious amounts of letters to the government and said deaf children without education will wander around aimlessly, so they lobbied hard and wide and the deaf societies worked diligently. We had communities working together to try to organise the deaf education. There is a wider example of the context here, you will see the building to the left of me, you will see it is a very interesting building with a very interesting background. It is called the Cook Centre. It was built in 1955. Does anybody know why it was set up? Because we already had the school, the preschool at PEJS – why was that set up? It was because Princess Elizabeth Junior School were planning to revert to oralism and teach the children orally. They did not want signing, they thought signing would spoil their beautiful speech. Fortunately, this organisation said that is not fair, that is not right. So they built and established this building over to the left.
Some of you people here, there are a few people here who maybe will know that that is the background behind this beautiful organisation. In my lifetime I saw very big gaps in education areas. That building was built to meet that gap at the time. That is why we have that lovely building over there. Now, where? I think that is probably one of the first examples because in World War II deaf education really changed. And in the ’80s, everything changed quickly. I worked here in the ’80s and there were lots of changes that happened at that time. There were a lot of world changes. There was evolution of education, equity and the same opportunities and standards for deaf children and education. It meant that the school here, maybe the numbers were dwindling, but it was a poor school in the past but it has changed. DCA has changed with those changes in deaf education. DCA, I know the name has evolved over time and education of children has evolved, but still there are some things that are missing and there are some gaps. It has not always been a wonderful education or a wonderful experience. What we thought now, how can we establish something that can suit children into the future?
With different programs, DCA set up and established to cover those gaps. An example of that is trying to make sure that deaf children don’t miss out. It happens very easily. This organisation had the foresight to know that we could include and visit organisations in equity and instilling confidence in young children and a strong identity. Mainstream education isn’t always easy and doesn’t always do that. So it is a wonderful history how this organisation has changed over time and been supported, especially where there have been gaps. So, I want to congratulate DCA on 150 years and their celebration today of this amazing organisation and this school and the deaf education for deaf children here in Victoria and providing a wonderful model and commitment, the commitment that DCA has to improve education for deaf children.”
Dr Breda Carty is a lecturer in Special Education at the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) Renwick Centre (affiliated with the University of Newcastle) in Sydney, Australia and is an expert in Deaf history. Before taking up a position with RIDBC in 2002, Breda was a Research Fellow at Griffith University for 12 years, and a teacher of the deaf in Victoria and the United States. She has had many years’ experience developing Deaf Studies workshops for the Deaf community and as a consultant with a variety of educational and community-based groups.