In the Pacific region, deeply entrenched barriers often prevent Deaf people from being included in their communities. The absence of sign languages in Pacific island countries is also major barrier, which results in lack of access to services and opportunities. This is underpinned by a lack of awareness of the rights and capacities of Deaf people.
Typically, many Deaf Pacific Islanders express themselves through limited ‘home signs’ that can only be understood by some family members. This means that Deaf people cannot communicate with all of the members of their family or others in their community– even other Deaf people. As a result, many Deaf people in the Pacific experience social isolation as well as exclusion from education, livelihood opportunities, and basic services.
Life without language limits people from being able to communicate with others. For Deaf women, men, girls and boys, formal sign language is an urgent need across the Pacific.
Along with its advocacy partners, CBM Australia is raising awareness of this issue and is asking Australia to take a lead role in better understanding the most effective ways to support Deaf people to realise their language rights in this region.
In 2017, CBM Australia hosted Cathy Naserua from the Fiji Association of the Deaf. Using Fijian sign language, Cathy told her story to Australian politicians and development organisations, and spoke to decision makers about the issues facing her community.
The Australian Government is now funding the first phase of research to begin the important work of including and empowering Deaf people across the Pacific region through sign.
This is a wonderful win for the Deaf community, disability rights stakeholders in the Pacific, CBM Australia and our supporters in helping promote the rights of Deaf people in the Pacific.