My name is Darren and I was born Deaf. I grew up wearing hearing aids. At school, many teachers were unhelpful because they did not understand that l could not hear. I somehow got through primary school, but the private high school I attended to was an absolute challenge. The less said, the better.
I left school at the end of year 10 when l was 16 and did year 11 by correspondence while working with racehorses on a farm because l wanted to study at Marcus Oldham Farm Management College (MOFMC) in Geelong and needed two years’ work experience.
My first degree was in horse and business management at MOFMC. I then travelled overseas to work with racehorses in Newmarket, England. Later, in my mid-20s, I did the disability ACRACS course at Box Hill TAFE to work with people with a disability for DHHS in group homes, and later, in Red Hill. My third degree was a Bachelor of Education (LOTE) to learn to become an Auslan teacher. When I finished that, I set up the Auslan Company in 2004.
I have two children – Samantha (now 23) and Hayden (now 20). Having a regular 9 to 5 schedule didn’t work for me after separating from their mum when they were 5 and 2, as I knew in years to come l would need to drop my kids off and pick them up from school. So I thought I’d set up a business and work from home with flexible hours.
The Auslan Company has a range of level 1 and 2 fully online courses as well as Auslan stories, songs, and nursery rhymes, plus Auslan for Healthcare staff. I now have 15 Auslan teachers working for me. Most work in the community teaching Auslan in the workplace, Auslan in childcare centres, Auslan LOTE in primary schools, and with families who have Deaf children with NDIS funding.
I also wrote and self-published a children’s book called ‘My daddy is Deaf’ with the aim to make deafness normal. Many hearing people (especially children) may not be aware that deaf people can do everything except hear. Allen&Unwin have expressed interest in this book for commercial publishing.
Hearing people have been awesome through the Coronavirus pandemic in that they remove their masks for me to lipread once l let them know l am deaf. Lipreading is a good resource that helps us understand hearing, non-signing people, however, it is fraught with danger because we can make mistakes interpreting what people say. I think learning Auslan should be fun and it’s a way to assist deaf and hard of hearing people. Maybe you’re interested in learning too!