Living Catholic e-News November 2016

The Silent Book - a voice for the deaf

Bk launch - the Silent Book.JPG






Bernadette T Wallis, a Missionary Sister of Service, knows what it is like to be a hearing child of two deaf parents. In The Silent Book she explores the disappearing Australian-Irish sign language told through her own experience within her own deaf family.

The book is not just a personal history of the language and cultural community of which little has been written in Australia but a rallying call to acknowledge the importance of recording the history of the Australian-Irish Signing Deaf Community, their sign language being Bernadette's first language. “I hope this book is a valuable source of education for the deaf community as well as the general community,” said Bernadette at the Adelaide launch by Father Michael Trainor and Annette Phillips at St John’s Church Plympton on November 6.
After starting to write a book about her own family, she realised there was a much bigger story that needed to be told: “It became a passion when I realised the importance of recording the history of their language, Australian-Irish sign language, and how and why it came into Australia - and why it ceased being taught in the Catholic system by 1953.” 

Australian-Irish Sign Language was introduced to Australia in the 19th century through Sister Gabriel Hogan who was a Dominican sister who was deaf herself. She was missioned from Cabra in Ireland to teach deaf children and to establish a school in Waratah, NSW. As Australia grew in population, there was also an increase in the number of deaf children.

The book tells the story of Bernadette’s parents, Don and Kathleen, in the context of their lives as deaf people in Victoria, their schooling in New South Wales in the 1920s and their adult lives working and bringing up a hearing family.
It includes Bernadette’s discovery of her deaf heritage and guides the reader through the story of the language through the Catholic education system in Australia. 

Packed full of photographs and historical information the book also includes some of Bernadette’s poetry which beautifully recreates the lives of the deaf and the hearing communities.

The Silent Book, A Deaf  Family and the Disappearing Australian-Irish Sign Language - has been launched in conjunction with the John Wallis Foundation in Melbourne, Hobart, Sydney, Brisbane, Toowoomba, Budderim Yea, Horsham and Berrigan.  

Proceeds of the book, which will be available as an e-book by Christmas, will go to the John Wallis Foundation. More information is available at the Missionary Sisters Website  and the book can be ordered via Amazon and the Foundation, or in South Australia through Sr Majella O'Sullivan sosj, who works with the Deaf Community. Cost $30.00.

Click here to read more stories in the November 2016 newsletter.