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The Deaf community in Australia is a diverse cultural and linguistic minority group with many distinctive characteristics including language, values and behaviours.

Understanding Deaf culture and community

Auslan (Australian Sign Language) is the primary or preferred language of the majority of deaf signing and people in Australia. It is not based on any spoken language. There are aspects of vocabulary and many grammatical rules that distinguish Auslan from English.

Auslan is a visual-gestural language with no written form and reflects Deaf people’s values. Such values include a preference for face to face communication in sign language and visual means of receiving information or using narratives to relay information.

Deaf people’s communication with other people and with the world around them is primarily visual, and their culture is based on this visual or tactile orientation.

The Deaf community identifies itself as a cultural and linguistic minority group and therefore do not refer to themselves as a disability group. The Deaf community has a strong history and sense of pride and community members prefer to be referred to as Deaf.

Differences between Deaf and hearing people

The following list is a representation of general community in Australia and it may not apply to individuals.

Hearing Deaf
Speaks English Signs Auslan
Use voice to communicate Use hands to communicate
Hear See
Listen Watch
Less facial expressions More facial expressions
Less visual More visual
Minimal body language Expressive body language
Can communicate without eye contact Always use eye contact when communicating
Whistle, yell, shout to get attention Stomping, tapping shoulder waving or flicking lights to get attention
Quiet noise Loud noise
Embarrassed by stares Ignore stares
Say 'Excuse me' Use body language to express 'Excuse me'
Can have private conversation in public (whispering) Can't have private conversation in public
Small talk or beat around the bush Straight to the point (direct)
Thinks pointing is inappropriate Use lots of pointing

Sourced from: Expression Australia (opens in a new window)