Young Australian of the Year and deaf advocate Drisana Levitzke-Gray will be inspiring the next generation when she meets with deaf students from all over Melbourne this Friday 30 October at Deaf Children Australia’s (DCA’s) Student Forum, and when she meets children and their families this Saturday 31 October.
Twenty two year old Drisana is the recipient of the 2015 Young Australian of the Year Award in recognition of her passion and dedication in advocating for the human rights of deaf people, raising awareness about Auslan (Australian Sign Language), and the right of deaf children to access Auslan from birth.
Drisana is the fifth generation in her family to be born deaf and is very proud of the deaf community’s unique heritage, language and culture. Drisana is travelling from Western Australia to share her experiences growing up deaf, encouraging children and teens to feel confident in their deaf identity. She says too much focus was put on her ability to speak and hear when she was growing up.
Drisana argues, “We must take action to improve access to Auslan for Deaf children in infancy, support hearing families in their efforts to learn it, expect educational institutions to embrace Auslan as a viable first language for Deaf children, and promote it as a valuable second language for hearing children too.”
As the only Australian selected to attend the 2012 – 2013 Frontrunners International Deaf Youth Leadership program based in Scandinavia, Drisana worked with communities in Europe and Samoa to expand leadership capacity and human rights and an understanding of deaf youth.
Drisana is encouraging the wider Australian community to accept diversity. She was the first deaf Auslan user to fulfil her civic duty as a juror, and sees the experience as a big step toward promoting a positive image of deaf people and ending discrimination. She consistently promotes a positive image of deafness, which states loudly and proudly: “It’s OK to be deaf”.
As Deaf Children Australia’s Acting CEO Geoff Manton says, “Drisana is a fantastic role model for children and young people who are deaf or hard of hearing, encouraging them to feel they can have a strong voice and advocate for their own future too”.
DCA’s Executive General Manager Strategy & Projects Rebecca Adam added, “One of the biggest challenges that deaf and hard of hearing children and young people face is the negative perceptions about their ability to achieve for themselves. Sometimes these perceptions become so engrained that it is very hard to shake off. Drisana in her capacity as Young Australian of the Year sends a powerful message to these children and young people and to our community that such perceptions should be challenged and that nothing should stand in the way of these individuals to lead successful lives.”
If you would like to meet Drisana, view all the event details.