Deaf Connect celebrate Auslan Day with the launch of Sign Name Project 

Published on: 12th April 2023

What’s Your Sign Name?

To celebrate Auslan Day, this Thursday (13 April 2023), Deaf Connect is launching the Sign Name Project. The launch of the Sign Name project aligns with Auslan Day, as an ode to 13 April 1989, when the first Auslan (Australian Sign Language) dictionary was published.

Deaf Connect Chief Impact Officer Brent Phillips says that Auslan Day is an opportunity to celebrate the language, and the role it plays in the culture and history of Deaf Australians while also educating and sharing this celebration with everyday Australians.

 “In Deaf culture, a sign name (or a name sign) is assigned to an individual by members of the Deaf community in lieu of spelling the letters of their name through sign language.” Mr Phillips says.

The practice of assigning sign names is an international cultural norm for the Deaf community, and as linguist Samuel James Supalla, author of The Book Of Name Signs (1992), writes – they function as given names in the Deaf community. It is an important part of the Deaf culture as it identifies an individual and their membership within the Deaf community.

It is tradition that sign names must be gifted by a Deaf person, and an individual cannot choose their own. The sign may reflect a personal feature, characteristic, name sounds, places or they could also be first and last name initials. Historically, Deaf children who attended boarding schools may have received sign names that correlated to their locker numbers for example.

“Within Deaf culture, sign names are worn as a badge of honour acknowledging the individual as a member of the community.”

Across the international Deaf community, and throughout the history of Deaf culture, people are known by their sign names, and Deaf Connect’s Sign Name Project brings together some of the stories of these people and their names in a new initiative for Auslan Day 2023.

The webpage will launch with over 100 videos – each capturing a member of the Deaf community at a point in time, and the unique story behind their sign name. Including Deaf, , hard of hearing Australians, Children of Deaf Adults (CODAs) family, allies and more – the aim for this project is to continue collating sign names over many years which will then become a significant archive and repository for the Deaf community.

“Through this project, we will educate and celebrate this unique feature of the Deaf community. It is intended to enable community members to click on an individual and learn about their sign names and their origins. We look forward to growing this platform, inviting more people to share their unique sign names.” Mr Phillips Says.

Deaf Connect acknowledges funding support from the CommBank Staff Foundation 2021 Community Grants program.

Learn more about Sign Names and the rich culture behind them. View the website filled with stories, videos and explore here to learn more.

Additional information:

Auslan Day – April 13th

What is Auslan? Auslan (Australian Sign Language) is the language of the Australian Deaf community. It was developed in Australia by people who are Deaf so that they could communicate with others. Older sign languages that are connected to Auslan include British Sign Language (BSL) and Irish Sign Language. Auslan is a unique language owned by the Australian Deaf community.

What is Auslan Day? Auslan Day celebrates the rich history, culture, community and language of the Australian Deaf community by honouring the date of first publication of the Auslan dictionary. Professor Trevor Johnson (sign name: TJ) is a hearing CODA (child of a Deaf adult) from a large Deaf family. Through his involvement in the Deaf community, he began to research the linguistics of Australian Sign Language. Trevor published the first Australian Sign Language Dictionary on 13 April 1989.

How is Auslan Day celebrated?  Auslan Day is celebrated to spread awareness of the rich history and culture of the Australian Deaf community and Auslan. Auslan Day is an initiative of Deaf Australia, the Deaf-led peak organisation representing Deaf Australians.

Media Opportunities:

Deaf Connect advocates the use of Deaf leaders for comment on topics related to the Deaf community, culture and language. Interpreters will be provided for all media events and opportunities.

Comment is available from Mr Brett Casey, CEO.
For all media enquiries contact Ian Harvey Ross, Head of Marketing on 0407 180 710 or [email protected].


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