Interpreter shortage concerns

HEARING-impaired Gippsland residents may face communication barriers following the closure of Victoria’s only Diploma Auslan course.

Central Gippsland Institute of TAFE will follow Melbourne’s Kangan Institute’s decision to cease enrolments on its Auslan diploma course, on the grounds of “lack of funding”.

GippsTAFE announced it would continue to provide the course to its three enrolled students until the end of the year. This has raised concerns with Deaf Access Gippsland, which fears the decision may lead to a shortage of interpreters in the region.

“By cutting the course there’s going to be no entry for future interpreters,” Mr Reddick said.

“There is the potential for training providers in other states, but there’s a difference in dialect between states; some signs can be very different from one state to another,” Mr Reddick said.

He said regional hearing impaired communities were “already disadvantaged due to a lack of locally based Auslan interpreters and the prohibitive cost of using Melbourne-based interpreters”.

He said Gippsland currently had two employed interpreters, with only one a resident of the region, catering to the needs of about 100 Auslan users.

“People use these services for basic necessities, like going to the bank, parent-teacher interviews or to go to the doctor,” he said.

GippsTAFE general manager teaching and learning Carol Elliot said the course was discontinued because of the “loss of full service provider” fee from the State Government.

However, Mr Reddick said the institute announced its decision prior to the release of the State Government’s new funding changes to vocational training.

Mr Reddick’s comment was acknowledged by Ms Elliot, who said while the course “previously was not viable, we continued to provide it”, adding budget changes by the State Government had only hindered the institute further.

“We just cannot afford it under the new funding regime; Auslan is not the only program we have had to discontinue as a result of the budget changes,” Ms Elliot said.

“We’re not happy that the government is doing this, but we have to try and remain viable.”

State Higher Education and Skills Minister Peter Hall’s spokesperson James Martin said the subsidies for diploma courses such as Auslan, would only reduce “slightly”, because these students “have access to an income contingent loan”.

He added the government was currently exploring options for the delivery of Auslan courses in the future.