As part of its extensive social justice remit, Stuartholme School in Brisbane is encouraging its students to learn the sign language Auslan.

Story Ken Eastwood   Photo courtesy Stuartholme

Attend the annual Christmas carols at Stuartholme School in Brisbane and you might be asked to do something different – to ‘sign’ a song, rather than sing it. 

As part of the school’s new emphasis on including social justice in every part of the curricula, the 690 Year 7–12 girls are being asked to learn Auslan, the Australian sign language. During lockdown about 45 girls and a few teachers took up the opportunity, and now there are two classes, a beginner class and an intermediate. The intermediate classes are choosing their own topics in which to research Auslan signs, such as hospitality, retail and emergency, so they potentially have some tools to use in the community. Some of the students will soon be running beginner Auslan classes for parents and the community.

Full-time social justice coordinator at the school, Claire Lawler, says although there are no hearing-impaired students currently at the school who need to use Auslan to communicate, the Auslan lessons are part of a larger agenda. “We want our students to come out of school as global citizens and to know that they have the ability to make change,” she says, noting that becoming educated about disability and ability is often the first step. “An action that is uneducated isn’t an effective action. Auslan is intense – it’s very nuanced and it takes a fair bit to learn, so the girls are getting a firsthand idea of how frustrating and isolating it can be.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #140

Outback Magazine: December/January 2022