Australians with hearing loss may be at risk ahead of the Voice referendum

Posted 10 months ago by David McManus
Australians have been urged to have their say ahead of the October 14 Voice to Parliament referendum  [Source: ChameleonsEye /]
Australians have been urged to have their say ahead of the October 14 Voice to Parliament referendum [Source: ChameleonsEye /]

Should important information be available in Auslan?

Key points:

  • The Voice to Parliament referendum — held on October 14, 2023 — could change the Australian Constitution
  • The Australian Government is not able to change what is included in the Constitution without a referendum, as it is the overarching rulebook for the nation’s justice system
  • If the majority of Australians were to vote ‘yes,’ First Nations peoples’ representatives could influence future policy regarding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples


Ahead of the Voice to Parliament referendum, Expression Australia Chief Executive Officer Rebecca Adam called on the Federal Government to support a communication blitz for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community about the Voice referendum.

Ms Adam met with representatives in a meeting with the Prime Minister’s office on Tuesday, September 12, to discuss accessibility and inclusion.

“For access and inclusion, our community require information [to be] available in Auslan,” the CEO told Talking Disability journalist David McManus.

“We require Auslan interpreters for all announcements, as it’s not just emergencies that we are interested in — we are a part of the Australian community and communication is key at any level of engagement.

“This includes, but is not limited to, discussion about the Voice being available in Auslan for deaf and hard-of-hearing Australians.”

Expression Australia, the peak body for DAHOH Aussies, had been concerned by the number of people who remain unaware of the compulsory vote or lacked enough information to make an informed decision.


Results from a hearing test had previously revealed that, at the time of testing in 2018 – ‘19, more than four in 10 — or 43 percent of — Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, seven years or older, had hearing loss in one or both ears.


Dr Scott Avery from Western Sydney University, who worked with the Australian Bureau of Statistics to analyse the data, said it would be a valuable asset in understanding the extent of undiagnosed hearing impairment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“The rate at which hearing impairment occurs is higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and, if it isn’t picked up early and managed, it can have a direct impact on their education and employment opportunities,” Dr Avery said.

Ms Adam, Expression Australia’s first deaf CEO, said it is crucial that the Federal Government makes key facts about the referendum available in Auslan:

“There are over four million DAHOH Australians — around a million of them are Indigenous,” Ms Adam explained.

“We need to ensure that the deaf community and the deaf First Nations communities across Australia has all information [sic] about the upcoming referendum available in their first language.

The Expression Australia CEO said the Government response was overwhelmingly positive to Expression Australia’s advocacy.

“This work, although recently discussed with the AEC, was deemed not required. This is where policy gets in the way of understanding [the] communication needs for a vulnerable community that is silent through deafness and without a voice,” Ms Adam continued.

“Formal aspirations, to include and empower, are meaningless without appropriate staff and services that [are] inclusive of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Australians.

“Key areas, such as education, health, justice, social security and aged care are a massive challenge.”

To learn more about the Voice to Parliament referendum prior to voting on October 14, please refer to the Government information available online. For more news about disability, there’s no greater outlet than the Talking Disability and Disability Support Guide mailing list. Let us know your thoughts on the electoral process!