Our Lady's College Annerley Auslan teacher Rachel Boyland with excited students signing "I'm learning Auslan".
Andree Rice is a Principal on a mission to create a more inclusive future, with the Our Lady’s College Principal announcing Auslan (Australian Sign Language) to be offered from 2023.
As the first Brisbane Catholic Education secondary school to offer this as an Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) accredited subject, Andree chatted to ABC Brisbane to share what this means for their Annerley community and how it was a natural fit with new staff welcomed to make this possible.
Listen to the interview or read the transcript below.
Loretta Ryan: Now, did you learn another language at school? What was it? We’ve already said well, I did it in grade eight. It was German, French and Japanese three in one go!
Craig Zonka: What can you remember of any of them?
Loretta Ryan: Probably “hello” but I ask because students at Our Lady's College in Annerley are about to embark on a language course with quite a difference.
Craig Zonka: Andree Rice is the Principal of Our Lady's at Annerley - morning to you, Andree.
Andree Rice: Good morning, Craig.
Craig Zonka: What was the language you learnt at school?
Andree Rice: I learnt French and German all through school.
Craig Zonka: Oh, did you? Do you remember much of it these days?
Andree Rice: Very little, sadly.
Craig Zonka: I wish I kept it up too and it's only now that I realise that, but tell us what's happening, what you're introducing this year.
Andree Rice: So, we're really excited to be introducing Auslan at Our Lady's College. So, Our Lady's College is a Brisbane Catholic Education girls school in Annerley and we are the first Brisbane Catholic Secondary school to be introducing Auslan and all our year sevens and all our year eights are going to be studying Auslan, along with Spanish actually. So they're going to be doing two languages.
Craig Zonka: And why this move to Auslan?
Andree Rice: There are a few reasons why we came up with this idea to implement Auslan. The first one was that we already have this amazing, dynamic, young Auslan interpreter working full-time at school with one of our year nine students who are profoundly deaf. So, our students really want to communicate with their peer and they love Jasmine, and it's a real natural interest in Auslan so that's already present.
Our Lady's College has also got an ongoing relationship with Deaf Connect, which is just down the road at Ipswich Road, and for years Deaf Connect has run Auslan classes at night and lots of professionals from the community study there, including a lot of nurses. So, we had that homegrown interest and we've got the relationship with Deaf Connect, and then because we're in the middle of COVID or getting through COVID last year, we suddenly started seeing, of course on television and on the ABC all these wonderful Auslan interpreters, and it's emerged as a great career pathway. So it was for all those reasons that it just coalesced and seemed to be the perfect and innovative offering for us.
Loretta Ryan: And do you think other schools now will follow your lead?
Andree Rice: I really hope they do, Loretta. To my knowledge, there are only two state high schools that offer it. So, Kedron State High does, and I believe state high school on the Gold Coast does. I know that there are a few primary schools offering it, and I would love to see it really taking off. We've had heaps of commentary on our school's Facebook site and on LinkedIn in response to this announcement, with lots of people in the community saying, I'd love my children to be learning Auslan, so hopefully it really will catch on.
Loretta Ryan: And you said it's compulsory, so will it work like a normal lesson where they will be marked on it?
Andree Rice: Yeah, it will work just like a normal lesson. We’re delivering it according to ACARA. So, it will be assessed like any other subject, and the way we're offering is that we've employed a deaf teacher, Rachel. She's actually going to be teaching alongside our language teacher. So, it's a great example of co-teaching, and our language teacher will be having oversight of assessment too, and it's great because the first unit in both Auslan and in Spanish is on ‘Identity and Belonging’. So you can see how that's perfect for Auslan and perfect for Spanish.
Loretta Ryan: Yeah and making it more inclusive for all students too now, which I would imagine parents hearing this who might have, you know, a deaf child at home would think, “well, what a great school”.
Andree Rice: Absolutely. I mean, it's got a definite appeal to students who are deaf or students who have hard of hearing, and since we've announced this, we have many family members and community members who have said we have a deaf person in our family, we're so thrilled to be able to communicate with them.
So it's for that reason, but I guess we also really believe it's going to make our girls just amazing in the community, so they'll be work-ready in whatever field of life they enter. They're going to be able to communicate with real people in the community that haven't always been able to feel that they're fully part of society.
Craig Zonka: Yeah, feel included. That's what it's all about, and you're right about what we saw during COVID with Auslan interpreters fronting up with politicians for every press conference and really putting it front and centre so that we are thinking about it more and more as a society. Andree Rice is with you, the Principal of Our Lady’s at Annerley. Can I ask more broadly - a couple of days away for welcoming students for 2023, you look cool, calm and collected Andree! Is that really the feeling?
Loretta Ryan: She's in a power suit!
Andree Rice: On the outside. Look, I mean, I always get a lot of buzz and pleasure and enjoyment from everyone returning to school and so the staff have started returning and it is great. It's sad that the holidays are over, but I'm honestly really excited and energised to see everyone and it's great seeing the staff, but it's even better of course when we're actually with our fantastic girls, so we're all ready and pumped for 2023.
Craig Zonka: I hope you're still saying that on Tuesday when school goes back for you. Andree, really lovely to chat and let's see how this goes. Compulsory for years seven and eight, and whether other schools adopt something similar. Really good of you to join us this morning.
Andree Rice: Thanks very much, Craig and Loretta. Great being here.
Craig Zonka: Andree Rice, the principal of Our Lady’s College at Annerley, 19 past seven.
Loretta Ryan: And Helen has texted in from Toowoomba to say my granddaughter from Adelaide finished grade four last year and was learning Auslan.
Craig Zonka: Oh yes, so I think Andree mentioned that there are a couple of primary schools that are starting it off, if that can continue, even better.
Transcript edited for clarity, with special thanks to ABC Radio Brisbane.
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