MS TIERNEY (Western Victoria—Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education) (11:57): This week is Education Week, and I am proud that the Andrews Labor government has committed to access and inclusion in education, training and skills. Last week it was my privilege to attend RMIT to announce the diploma of Auslan and the advanced diploma of Auslan interpreting being added to the free TAFE list in 2023. I was joined by Sheena Watt, a member for Northern Metropolitan, and many leaders from the deaf and hard-of-hearing and deafblind communities in Victoria. It was humbling to be joined by community leaders and told of how important this announcement is. It is a program that will change lives. By including these qualifications on the free TAFE course list we are not only building a pathway to a great career but importantly supporting our deaf and hard-of-hearing and deafblind communities and their families, friends and colleagues.
Auslan interpreters are critical to supporting these communities in important settings, including all educational environments and medical, legal and financial appointments, and in engaging in arts and entertainment and so many other public forums. I met Heather Lawson, board member of Deafblind Victoria. Heather uses tactile Auslan signing to communicate. Can I sincerely thank Heather for her insights, which were a privilege to hear, and her continuing advocacy in the community. Auslan is part of deafblind culture, and I do recall when those opposite, when in government, cancelled Auslan from the TAFE course list. It was distressing to see the impact on the community members in the gallery of this chamber in 2013 and 2014. I am proud that this government recognises the importance of Auslan as a language and a career and the cultural role it plays in many communities.