Denying Claims of Discrimination in the Federal Court of Australia: Arguments against the Use of Native Sign Language in Education

Año: 2007
Editorial: Sign Language Studies, Vol. 7, nº 4 (2007) pp. 380–386
Tipo de código: Copyright
Soporte: Digital


Educación » Adquisición y desarrollo del lenguaje


In this article I analyze two cases that are the result of parents' complaints against education authorities for alleged indirect discrimination on the basis of their child's lack of access to instruction through Auslan in regular school settings. Although bilingual/bicultural programs for deaf students in Australia are available in some special schools and deaf facilities, the subject of complaint in these cases relates to the lack of provision of regular classroom staff members who are fluent in Auslan. Both cases were decided in favor of the complainants.

Despite the parents' calls for Auslan to be used with their deaf children, the formal complaints, and attempts at conciliation, the education providers have maintained a vigorous defense (in one case also appealing the decision of the Federal Court of Australia). It is therefore of potential interest to educational researchers and sign linguists to know how the respondents argued their cases against the use of Native Sign Language (NSL) in the classroom. Legal counsel is bound to represent its clients' views; therefore, the defendants' arguments are a reflection of the views and attitudes of the education authorities whom they represent. This article provides a detailed account of their denial of the claims of discrimination. In doing so, it presents perhaps the first comprehensive account in the public domain of the way in which these authorities view NSL and their reasons for denying its use with deaf children for whom Auslan is their first or preferred language.