Sign with Me: Auslan Training for Brimbank Libraries Staff

Auslan (Australian Sign Language) is a language of Australia’s Deaf community. With approximately 16,000 users across the country and its recent emergence as the fifth most taught language in Victorian schools, the significance of Auslan as a language of access and belonging cannot be overstated.

In response to the evolving landscape of community needs, Brimbank partnered with Expression Australia to provide Library staff with Auslan Level 1 training, igniting a beacon of accessibility and inclusivity for the Deaf community using our branches. Thirty-five Brimbank Libraries staff members, motivated by a commitment to breaking communication barriers, have so far undertaken this Auslan Level 1 training. Many of these staff have also continued their learning journey and have since commenced the Level 2 Auslan program with a round happening over October and November 2023.

The Level 1 and Level 2 training has not only equipped them with introductory Auslan skills but also provided them with specialized knowledge in library-centric language, reinforcing the library as a welcoming space for all. Staff members have been given the option to wear visible badges highlighting their Auslan skills which has supported members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (HoH) community to use Auslan with staff. Staff members who completed the training found themselves not only proficient in basic Auslan but also have gone on to create meaningful connections with Deaf community members.

With these newfound skills, staff have been able to communicate using Auslan, transcending communication barriers and fostering a sense of belonging for library users. Below are some examples of how staff have used their Auslan with library users. Since completing the Auslan training, many staff members have been able to have positive interactions with community members who use Auslan. Below are a few short examples.

A regular customer who is Deaf and uses Auslan interpreters arrived at the library for a meeting with his interpreter. His interpreter was sick on the day of his library visit. The library user was able to use Auslan to speak with a staff member who told him his interpreter was sick and unable to come to the library today. The customer often returns to the library to speak with Auslan trained staff.

Another staff member was approached by a customer who used written notes as a communication tool. When she signed to the customer ‘do you use Auslan’ the customer signed back ‘yes’ with the biggest smile across their face. The staff member was then able to introduce herself, the library and explain details about membership.

Rachel D’Arcy

Library Team Leader & Portfolio Lead, Brimbank Libraries

Author Bio

Rachel (she/her) is a Library Team Leader & Portfolio Lead at Brimbank Libraries. In addition to her role as a librarian, she holds accreditation as a Dietitian and Nutritionist. Rachel is a graduate of the Shared Leadership Program (2021) and co-convenes the Public Libraries Victoria Sustainability SIG. She has shared her expertise in Sustainability and Libraries through presentations at the Libraries by Design Conference 2021 and ALIA Conference 2022, and more recently has spoken about Libraries and Auslan Training at the PLV Conference 2023. Her insights on sustainability and libraries also led to an interview on 3MBS (2022) and a presentation to TAFE librarians (2023). Rachel’s profound passion lies in exploring how public libraries can champion accessibility, health equity, and sustainability for their communities.