Through the VidKids Program, DCA partnered with the Northern Territory Education Department to support the Talking Hands Residential School Program which ran during National Youth Week from 14 to 17 April. Approximately 12 children and young people from the Northern Territory and four young people from Victoria and NSW attended. Eleven of these receive ongoing Auslan tuition and mentoring via video-conferencing from DCA. This has been provided on a weekly basis through the VidKids program.
The camp presented a great opportunity for Deaf Children Australia’s VidKids Support Workers Vanessa Adzaip, Paula Thornton and Debra Swann to bring everyone together, work with them face to face and do intensive workshops.
Vanessa reflected on the value of the camp: “The Talking Hands Camp provided enriching education and recreational experiences for the Deaf children through learning to interact with other Deaf people from outside the school. They really enjoyed the variety of communication skills and developed their life skills through activities with the support of Deaf adults. They also increased their self-confidence and personal worth – while challenging themselves with their Auslan. Their growth is always encouraged and the positive emphasised. My aim is the happiness of the children. I hope their education will represent their future, their hope and dreams.”
Debra added, “The students were aged from 5 to 17 years old and most of them know basic Auslan skills. However, some of them use their own community or home signs to communicate with their families, so it was a great opportunity to strengthen everyone’s Auslan skills through constant interaction. It was wonderful that many of these children and young people flew in from their remote communities with family members, carers and siblings so we could help them improve their Auslan skills as well. They even flew in from such isolated areas like Elcho Island off the coast of Arnhem Land.
“This year, it was the first time that four VidKids students from outside the NT were able to participate in this camp and meet other students. For the two non-indigenous Victorian students I brought up, it was an eye opening experience for them to learn about the different communication skills of indigenous people living in remote areas. It taught them some valuable life lessons.
“Brooke and Leah really enjoyed the camp activities including visiting a water park and getting to know members of the Northern Territory Deaf community. DeafNT hosted the Deaf Community barbecue at the camp so the participants could meet local Deaf adults. Brooke and Leah also developed a greater appreciation for their ability to communicate and the support they have from their families. I am sure all the students have gone home with stronger skills to enable them to communicate better within their family homes.
“During this camp, those who are on the VidKids Program had the opportunity to assess how their Auslan skills have strengthened and everything they have learned over the last 18 months. This experience will assist them to develop their skills even more during future video conferencing sessions. We hope we will be able to continue this support beyond the closure of the VidKids pilot program in June.”
Read the Tax Appeal to read the stories of Brooke and Charles, both of whom have strengthened their language skills enormously through the VidKids program.