Deb follows the signs on path to rewarding career
WHEN SEARCHING FOR AN OPPORTUNITY TO BECOME A VOICE FOR THE DEAF COMMUNITY, A LOCAL AREA COORDINATOR (LAC) ROLE WITH FEROS CARE PROVED THE PERFECT FIT FOR DEB HAYES.
A qualified interpreter and Auslan teacher, Deb was drawn to the role, which offered the perfect chance to help people with disability in the ACT.
“I was in employment services and saw a job advertisement for the LAC role. I was inspired by the opportunity to utilise all my skills in one position, so I felt a career as an LAC would be the right fit for me, so I jumped at it” she said.
“I also felt it would be a position where I would be able to have contact with people with disability and be able to give them a voice and let them know they were heard.”
THE BEST LACS CARE FOR OTHERS
Deb has accomplished a lot in assisting National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) recipients to achieve their goals since becoming an LAC in January.
Building on past and new relationships specifically within the Deaf community in the ACT, Deb has become a crucial conduit between Deaf participants and the NDIS.
But every journey has a beginning, and for Deb, her passion for helping others was sparked in the early 1980s.
“When I started in the Australian Public Service, one of the staff members was particularly quiet and I had not seen other staff members speaking with her,” Deb said.
“It became apparent that she was Deaf and used sign language to communicate with another staff members. I knew the alphabet in fingerspelling and approached her to introduce myself.
With Auslan not being heard of until 1987 and sign language yet to be recognised as the language of the Deaf community, Deb’s co-worker used what was called Deaf Sign or Deaf Talk.
Engrossing herself in learning to be able to support her co-worker, Deb learnt fingerspelling and signing, and within a few months was able to share in conversation and become her on-site interpreter.
“When I learned about interpreting, I wanted to know more,” Deb said.
“I learned there were no courses available to teach interpreting for the Deaf community and no language courses where I could learn the skills needed to improve my communication.
“So, my colleague would invite me to meet her Deaf friends and suddenly I was interpreting at parties. I attended any public events that had an interpreter and got to know the Canberra Deaf Community who gave me the social opportunities to develop my language skills.”
Obtaining her Level 2 National Accreditation for Translators and Interpreters accreditation in 1989, Deb went on to receive her Level 3 professional accreditation before supporting the development and establishment of training courses for interpreting skill development.
“Since then, Auslan has been recognised, and there are now training courses for Auslan and Interpreting, so Deaf people’s voices are being heard,” Deb said.
“It has been a privilege for me to be a small contributor and part of that and be able to provide such a valuable service.”
From interpreter work with prime ministers, celebrities and comedians at locations such as Parliament House, religious events, and at births, deaths and marriages, Deb has had many opportunities to work in situations she thought she would never “have the chance to experience”.
HELPING OTHERS IS AT THE CORE OF WHAT WE DO
Applying those skills and her passion to her LAC role, Deb has played a crucial role in assisting Feros Care participants within the Deaf community.
Helping to ease any confusion by translating NDIS information from English to Auslan, Deb has been developing strong connections in the process.
“Through meeting with participants using Auslan, I’ve been able to breakdown NDIS terminology, to help around understanding the NDIS and plan management while breaking down any confusion,” Deb said.
“Having that cultural knowledge and community links provides a sense of trust, and for participants using Auslan, being able to express themselves in their own language makes it much easier for them.
“At one meeting, a participant brought a support worker along, who said it was great having an LAC who knew Auslan, as she could just sit back and provide support, so that was rewarding.”
Taking her drive to the next level, Deb has joined forces with fellow Auslan trained LACs, Beth Helmers and Amy Holt, to develop the early stages of a project which will directly assist ACT’s Deaf community.
Including workshops, the project will offer the opportunity for Deaf participants to have their questions answered, while offering information on NDIS plan funding, how to prepare for meetings and reviews, and providing tools for plan self-management.
Not only crucial for participants, Feros Care Community Development Coordinator (CDC), Tara Barrett, said Deb’s skills and passion had also proven invaluable for her fellow LACs.
“Having that personal drive provides an extra edge to go that further step for others, and people like Deb always go the extra mile,” Tara said.
“With ongoing changes to hearing support technology, having people like Deb who are fully across hearing support is so beneficial to our ACT team.
“It really builds capacity for all LACs, so it’s great to have someone like Deb with her skills and passion.”