Executive Messages - CEO Deaf Services
BRETT CASEY | CEO DEAF SERVICES
Welcome to the end of another year, and another annual review for Deaf Services.
This year’s review comes at an interesting time for our organisation, for our membership and for community. Around the world, 2020 has been dominated by the challenges of COVID-19 and the bushfires. At Deaf Services, we have been facing those challenges while also progressing with our landmark merger with the Deaf Society.
As a result, this will be the last annual review Deaf Services will produce, and next year we will have our first combined report as Deaf Services and the Deaf Society. While we will no doubt have much to celebrate next financial year as a merged organisation, I am excited to share this year’s report which focuses on Deaf Services’ achievements and our significant evolution and growth.
In our previous annual report and my message to the members, I announced the launch of our Strategic Plan 2019-2024, which heralded a new era for Deaf Services. It is an ambitious plan, focused on standing with the Deaf Community, building that capacity and influencing social change.
A year on from that announcement, the organisation has immediately begun delivering on the pillars of that plan: Leadership, Innovation, Culture and Capability, and underpinning it all is a focus on community.
Throughout this report you will see examples of the ways in which we have already begun achieving our strategic goals, and rather than focus on the external global challenges during the past financial year, it is some of these examples I would like to discuss.
In 2019/2020 we have exhibited leadership through our increased involvement in critical issues facing the community and the disability sector. The success of our work with Government was seen most recently with the announcement of a free, national sign language interpreting service for all senior Australians who use sign language to communicate. This federal program is a result of consistent advocacy from Deaf Services and the Deaf Society, developed through a close relationship with a strong alliance of Deaf Seniors. The selection of Auslan Connections as the sole provider of this program further reinforces our high standards of service delivery.
Beyond this, we have built on the leadership capacity of the community through our Sponsorships, Grants and Partnerships program. This year the program delivered over $150,000 in grant funding, including grants to community members, other Deaf organisations and groups, as well as partnerships with organisations such as Seaworld, with whom we developed the wildly successful Sea World Deaf Community Weekend.
We have been excited to partner on events including The Deaf Culture Council Queensland’s Deaf Festival and once COVID-19 restrictions are behind us, I look forward to working on similar in-person events once more.
Innovation is another key pillar of the strategic plan, and at the beginning of this financial year we had no way of knowing just how much COVID-19 would prove our capacity to innovate, evolve and grow our service delivery.
While 2020 has sped up the rate of change throughout the organisation, some of the most drastic (and yet successful) changes to service delivery were seen within our Education and Interpreting teams.
With face-to-face Auslan teaching not an option, the delivery of our Accredited courses and Community classes were completely reimagined in a virtual online space. This model provided education accessible to an online audience while remaining true to our principles of Deaf-led, immersion-based teaching.
The result was incredibly well-received, allowing more people from more areas of Australia to access our services, and catering to the welldocumented increase in interest in Auslan during lockdown.
Our interpreting teams also adapted and innovated this year, not only responding to the increased demand for government interpreting but also upskilling interpreters and the community in the setup and use of Video Remote Interpreting (VRI).
Our long-term commitment to implementing and developing industry-leading VRI systems allowed internal and external bookings to continue smoothly throughout the early days of lockdown, ensuring no client was left behind.
As well as in-person interpreting, VRI allowed us to provide services at press conferences all over the country, including a partnership with the ABC to deliver picture-in-picture interpreting for Northern Territory government COVID-19 announcements.
This financial year has certainly been challenging to the evolution of our internal culture, with the majority of our workforce being decentralised and undertaking extraordinary changes to the way they work. I am pleased to say this, however, these changes have only proven the capability, capacity and readiness of our organisational culture.
This process has shown that not only does our organisation have the capability to mobilise our workforce in an unprecedented and expediated way, but that our staff have remained committed to our cause and driven by their passion to provide for the community no matter the circumstance.
As such, the whole organisation should be extremely proud of the success and growth we have seen in our final year of operation as Deaf Services. As I mentioned, this is the final Annual Report for Deaf Services, but it also heralds the birth of our new entity – the largest whole-of-life service provider for Deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing Australians.
I would like to take a moment to thank the Deaf Services Board for their support and guidance throughout the year, with particular thanks to our outgoing Board Chair, Bronwyn Rout. The end of 2020 will mark the end of Bronwyn’s time on the board of Deaf Services. Bronwyn has been a board member for nine years and Chair since November 2018 and during this time her contribution to our organisation and to the community has been invaluable. We wish her the best of luck in the future.
I would also like to thank Craig McDonald, COO of Deaf Services for his role in keeping our organisation moving from strength to strength throughout 2019/2020. Craig and the management team have worked tirelessly to ensure our continued success despite this year’s hurdles and I thank them for their commitment.