In a move towards greater inclusion, NSW schools have begun offering Australian Sign Language or Auslan as an elective for students from kindergarten to Year 10. This initiative aims to bridge communication gaps for the deaf community and address a shortage of interpreters.
Jack O’Leary, a student who experiences varying degrees of deafness, expressed the significance of this step. “It will help deaf students stop being alienated by hearing students if they feel different,” he said.
O’Leary is among seven students at his school with a hearing impairment.
According to Minister for Education and Early Learning Prue Car, the decision to introduce Auslan into the curriculum was long overdue. “Studying a language at school gives students the skills to participate in our linguistically dynamic world and improves broader communication and literacy skills,” Minister Car said.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of clear communication for all members of society. Auslan interpreters became well-known, visible during daily media briefings by premiers, as well as at music performances and festivals. This recognition further solidified the belief among educators and policymakers that inclusiveness needs to start early in life.
Minister for Disability Inclusion Kate Washington emphasized the initiative’s broader impact. “By rolling out a K-10 Auslan syllabus, we’re delivering on our commitment to create a more inclusive community,” she said.
For teacher Amy Regal, Auslan conveys much more than specific signs and can be better taught in a formal setting like the classroom.
“Auslan is very expressive,” said Regal. “An individual could only do a couple of words in sign, however what they say in their face is the greater message.”
Starting in 2026, schools will have the option to include the Auslan syllabus, allowing ample time for educators to prepare for the change. Beyond fostering inclusion, this new subject also aims to tackle the shortage of Auslan interpreters.
“Part of the challenge we have is finding Auslan interpreters, and part of the reason why we’re rolling out this syllabus is to train more kids in Auslan,” said Minister Car.