The achievements of Australia’s deaf and hard of hearing athletes have been recognised at the National Sports Museum (NSM) at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The new exhibit reflects the accomplishments of Australian deaf athletes at the Deaflympic Games and demonstrates that you don’t need to hear to be a world-class athlete. The Australia at the Deaflympics showcase brings together an unmatched collection of awards, uniforms and equipment which reflect Australia’s success at the highest level of international competition.
Some of Australia’s most decorated Deaflympians, including Dean Barton-Smith AM, a four-time Deaflympian as well as the first deaf competitor to represent Australia at the Olympic Games, were on hand to help officially open the showcase.
“We’re delighted to give our visitors a deeper understanding of the unique sporting challenges that Australia’s deaf athletes meet and overcome on their pathway to Deaflympic success,” says National Sports Museum Curator, Helen Walpole.
“Deaf sport in Australia stretches right back to the 1880s, and it’s developed into a strong community with significant success on the international stage.”
The launch coincides with a number of key milestones and dates, including the fiftieth anniversary of Australia’s first Deaflympics medal, the tenth anniversary of the 2005 Melbourne Deaflympics, as well as Deaf Australia’s National Week of Deaf People 2015, which runs from Saturday 17 to Friday 23 October.
Phil Harper, President of Deaf Sports Australia says the NSM showcase was a landmark event acknowledging that deaf sports and the Deaflympics are a unique and interesting story that can be shared and enjoyed by all.
“By highlighting the achievements in sport by deaf Australians this showcase will help highlight the importance of sport participation at all levels for deaf and hard of hearing people.”
Deaflympian Dean Barton-Smith AM says it was humbling to be featured in the National Sports Museum and echoed Phil Harper’s sentiments on the importance of the recognition for the Deaf community.
“I’ve always stated that had I not first known about and participated in the 1985 Deaflympics at 17 years old, I would not have gained the level of confidence and conviction to strive further to achieve my ultimate dream of becoming an Olympian,” he says.
“I believe this display will provide inspiration to many young deaf and hard of hearing Australians and their families – showing them that they too can have, and perhaps even realise, the dream of representing their country.”
Key memorabilia on display in the showcase includes the shirt worn by Dean Barton-Smith AM as Captain of the 2005 Melbourne Deaflympics Australian team, a range of medals won by Australian Deaflympians in various disciplines – including swimming, shooting and athletics – a pair of ski boots worn by winter Deaflympian Andrew Swan MBE at the 1983 Winter Deaflympics when he won gold in both the giant slalom and super giant slalom events, two of Cindy-Lu Fitzpatrick OAM’s swimming medals are on display out of a total 29 medals which she won through six Deaflympic Games, and much more.
Cindy-Lu Fitzpatrick OAM who was unable to attend the launch comments, “As a 12 year-old, at my first Games in Romania 1977, I would never have thought that the Deaflympics would play such a huge part in my life. The Deaflympics was my springboard to represent Australia in non-deaf competition and even after retiring as a competitor, I am still involved in the Deaflympics as a Technical Director for Swimming.
“I have life long memories and more importantly made life-long friendships with people around the world whose deafness has not stopped them from competing, travelling and communicating without barriers that can be encountered during non-deaf competitions.
“It is this ease of communication that endeared many of us to fully embrace the Deaflympics because of its love of sign language which transcends all language and communication barriers,” she says.
The showcase is supported by Conexu’s ‘OpenAccess Tours’ app which, when downloaded on a Smartphone device, offers a guided tour in Auslan or captioned audio for deaf and hard of hearing visitors.
The National Sports Museum was the first museum in Australia to offer an Auslan service, providing deaf and hard of hearing Australians an engaging way to experience the NSM and access information.
The Australia at the Deaflympics showcase will run until October 2016. The National Sports Museum is located at Gate 3, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Victoria.
The Deaflympics display cabinet on show at the National Sports Museum (NSM)
Phil Harper, DSA President launching the display cabinet at the NSM
On hand to launch the display cabinet were Dean Barton-Smith, Helen Walpole, Garry West-Bail, Phil Harper & Megan Rowlands
Phil Harper demonstrating the deaf-friendly app where they can access stories about the displays in Auslan (photo credit SDP Media)