Deaf and hard of hearing people have come together from across the nation, and the seas, to help celebrate, compete and develop a sense of community all in the name of the XVIII Australian Deaf Games.
Held every four years in Australia, the 2018 event kicked off on Saturday, 20 January in Albury Wodonga (NSW and Vic) with the Opening Ceremony, which welcomed those competing from Australia, Fiji and New Zealand.
Australian Deaf Games Media and Communications Coordinator Sherrie Beaver says this year’s opening ceremony showed just how excited the deaf community were for the four-yearly event.
“After an incredible Opening Ceremony, it's obvious that participants are excited to be here,” she says.
“The Games are clearly an essence of the Deaf community, where we get to see deaf and hard of hearing people meet others like them from all over Australia and neighbouring countries.”
While focused around competing in 17 sporting events, including netball, basketball, athletics, golf, table tennis, swimming, tennis and even eight ball, Ms Beaver says the event means much more to the deaf community.
“Whilst sports is clearly core, the Australian Deaf Games also constitutes a major social and cultural festival for the whole Deaf community,” she explains.
“It provides a unique blend of social activities matched with a vast list of sporting events that together cater for a diversity of Deaf community needs.
“The Games also offers an exciting social and cultural program where participants are given opportunities to participate in social activities such as yoga taught by a Deaf yoga teacher, self-guided Auslan interpreted tours at the Murray Art Museum Albury by using the Open Access app from Conexu Foundation, LGBTIQIA+ social night and much more.
“This event gives deaf and hard of hearing people an opportunity to meet new people, catch up with friends they haven’t seen in a while, develop their Deaf identity, and to be a part of a magnificent community.”
Gemma Galea is one of the participants in the swimming category of this year’s Games who is looking forward to all that the event has to offer.
“The Games feels like my second home,” she says.
“It’s amazing to be able to feel I belong here....I also love how I am able to find my friends here.”
While the Games are in full swing, Ms Beaver welcomes anyone who wants to attend any of the upcoming events, saying it offers a great opportunity to develop cultural awareness.
“We would absolutely recommend anyone who is interested to come along,” she says.
“It gives them a cultural awareness of the deaf and hard of hearing people, and it also teaches them how to communicate with us.
“The Games also gives people an opportunity to further develop their Auslan skills through volunteering.”