What is Auslan?

Auslan, or Australian Sign Language is a language used by the Australian Deaf Community.

The origin of the sign language has evolved since the 19th century from British, Irish and Scottish migrants who brought their sign languages with them.

Australian sign language like other sign languages around the world, developed its own unique characteristics, making it  a distinct language with its own grammar and syntax. There are notably Northern and Southern dialects, tying it to the origins of where the language was developed from.

It is often presumed that Auslan is ‘word for word’ but this is not true. It has its own lexicon and structure, where meanings can be conveyed using handshapes, movements, palm orientation, location and facial expressions.

It is important to note that Auslan is a living language, just like all other sign and spoken languages. It can be similar to other nations (eg. Auslan share similarities with British Sign Language and New Zealand Sign Language). The same could be said for indigenous communities; they have their own languages and have similarities.

Auslan is not limited to the Australian Deaf community only. It can be used by other people for genuine purposes such as;

  • People who have deaf family members or friends;
  • people who are gradually experiencing hearing loss due to age or medical reasons;
  • People who are deafblind;
  • people with additional needs such as physical, developmental, behavioural and sensory needs;
  • people looking to improve their inclusivity skills in their careers;
  • people who wish to become interpreters;
  • people who love learning languages and more.

The benefits of learning Auslan can improve communication, self-esteem, mental health, social engagement, consequently resulting in better understanding, increased knowledge and gaining valuable life skills.

Deaf or hard of hearing people can use different communication approaches interchangeably, such as Auslan, lip-reading, speech, gestures and writing notes. These approaches can also be useful for others who have communication difficulties.

In today’s evolving world, technology is readily available for society to access information. To improve better understanding of Auslan, the identity and culture of the Auslan community or awareness, please contact Deaf Australia for advice.