Dominic Perrottet’s track record for delivering on his word is already pretty poor, just days into his premiership. Following his confirmation as NSW’s latest leader, Perrottet pledged to stick to the state’s ‘roadmap to freedom’ as announced by former premier Gladys Berejiklian on September 27. Less than 24 hours later, he announced sweeping amendments to the roadmap, reportedly against the wishes of the state’s chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant – a conspicuous break with the state government’s previous policy of 'following the health advice’. Perrottet has also since done away with another permanent fixture of his predecessor’s press briefings: the use of Auslan interpreters for hearing impaired viewers.
At the press briefings on October 10 and 11, as important information was announced about the first phase of NSW’s three-phase plan to exit the pandemic, hearing-impaired viewers were not afforded the courtesy of an interpreter. The reason for this glaring omission? Shockingly, there doesn’t seem to be one, other than an implication that the premier’s office just couldn’t be bothered to book an interpreter.
In a statement issued to the media by the office of the premier on October 12, the buck was passed to NSW Health:
“As NSW returns to a more normal setting and emerges from Covid-19 there will be a range of media events, some which may include the services of Auslan interpreters and which may not. NSW Health has worked closely throughout the pandemic with the Deaf Society, which has provided Auslan interpreters at health-content-led press conferences and at the live streaming of NSW Health social media messages. NSW Health will continue to book Auslan interpreters at press conferences coordinated by NSW Health relating to public health updates. NSW Health will also request an Auslan interpreter at any press conference where the chief medical officer or deputy is providing a health update.”
It’s hard to tell if this has always been the policy of the NSW government, because the Berejiklian cabinet never delivered a Covid press briefing without a member of NSW Health being present.
Disability rights activists have slammed the premier’s office for its decision to reduce the number of briefings with Auslan interpreters. A media statement issued by Australian Lawyers for Human Rights‘ vice president and disability rights subcommittee chair Natalie Wade said:“Press conferences regarding COVID-19 are a fundamental source of information to the public to know the latest in an ever-shifting environment. Failure to provide this information in an accessible manner, in real-time, violates the human rights of people with disability, and places them at great risk.”
The glibness of the statement from the premier’s office has not gone unnoticed on Twitter, which has erupted with a mass outcry over the state government’s decision to stop providing information to hearing-impaired people in NSW.
#AUSLAN is a LANGUAGE not a communication method… it’s typically a deaf persons first language & English their second.. subtitles are notoriously incorrect due to the Australian accent in live software translations. There is no valid excuse to not provide AUSLAN interpreters.— Bradley N (@bradsdailydose) October 12, 2021
This is very disappointing, as Deaf & hard of hearing people living in Sydney (and rest of NSW) deserve to access COVID-19 information in Auslan, particularly with COVID-19 restrictions changing from today.— Sherrie Beaver (@isigniwander) October 11, 2021