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April 16, 2005

School discriminated against deaf boy

From: Ninemsn, Australia - Apr 16, 2005

The Federal Court of Australia has found the Queensland government discriminated against a 12-year-old deaf boy by not providing him with a sign language interpreter at school.

Justice Bruce Lander awarded the boy $64,000 in compensation for future economic loss, and pain and suffering arising from the educational inadequacy.

Deaf Children Australia (DCA) said the boy, who attended a Sunshine Coast state school, has the academic skills of a six-year-old.

"The implications of this decision are Australia wide; from now on it is very clear that all deaf children who need an Auslan interpreter should have an Auslan (Australian Sign Language) interpreter," DCA chief executive Damian Lacey said.

"We hope it encourages a very positive response from education authorities, both public and private ones, to really consider the individual needs of children," Mr Lacey said.

Counsel for the boy's family, James Gray, said the court decision meant if any educational authority did not provide a deaf child with an Auslan interpreter when they needed one, they would be in breach of commonwealth human rights legislation.

"State governments are now liable to pay compensation," he said.

The claim was first lodged at the Federal Court in 2002.

Queensland Education Minister Anna Bligh said the decision by the court supported Education Queensland's current approach to education for the hearing impaired.

"Over the past three years, Education Queensland has substantially expanded education support for the hearing impaired, including the increased availability of Auslan support," she said in a statement.

"There is a program to increase the number of teachers learning Auslan.

"In addition, the department has a continuing Bilingual-Bicultural program at Yeerongpilly Special Education Development Unit and Toowong State School, which uses Auslan to instruct students.

"These parents took this course of action because they are obviously concerned for their children's welfare and future as well as their education."

©AAP 2005

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