The heartwarming story behind the bearded interpreter of the bushfire press conferences in Australia
- Sean Sweeney is the interpreter of NSW Rural Fire Services during the bushfire crisis
- He has been present at all press conferences in recent months
- Sean is the first person in his family who is not born deaf and signs for them
- The founder of Auslan Media Access reminded us that we should not disable translators
When NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons reported that another volunteer firefighter had died during the Australian bushfire crisis, Sean Sweeney stood beside him.
When NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian spoke about the catastrophic conditions and the total fire ban throughout the state, Sean Sweeney was hard at work.
He is the bearded interpreter that Australians have seen on their TV screens during the summer months and given meaning through Auslan, or Australian sign language.
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He is the bearded interpreter (to the left of Sean Sweeney). Australians have come to watch their TV screens in the summer months and have given meaning via Auslan or Australian sign language
Sean, who translates RFS emergency announcements, is the first person in his family to be born by hearing (pictured with his wife)
Sean, who translates RFS emergency announcements, is the first person in his family to be born by hearing.
“My great-grandparents, my grandparents, my mother and father are deaf … aunts, uncles, cousins, they are all deaf,” he told the ABC.
This means that Auslan is the first language of Sean and how he started interpreting.
But his role is not to provide a literal translation of what is being said during the press conferences.
“My great-grandparents, my grandparents, my mother and father are deaf … aunts, uncles, cousins, they are all deaf,” he told ABC
His role is not to provide a literal translation of what is being said during the press conferences
WHAT IS AUSLAN?
Auslan is unique Australian. Just as different languages are spoken throughout the world, deaf people use different sign languages depending on where they come from (there are an estimated 130 sign languages).
Due to historical similarities, Auslan looks more like British sign language (BSL) than American sign language (ASL), which means that Australians can often understand BSL and vice versa.
‘We deliver the meaning and the intention and tone of the speaker. That is our job. ”
And in times of national tragedy, spreading that message to the deaf community can be a matter of life or death.
“Sean has done a fantastic job interpreting. His skills are clear and he has been an absolute savior for ALL deaf and hard of hearing people in communities affected by forest fires, “said a social media commentator.
“I also come from a family with deaf brothers and sisters and my Auslan is by no means close to his level of expertise.”
‘We deliver the meaning and the intention and tone of the speaker. That is our job, “he said (pictured with his wife)
Another said: “Congratulations Sean. Well deserved to get a big knock on his back. It is a very hard job to listen and think about what to interpret for the entire deaf community to view and pass on the information, especially in emergency situations. “
Deaf lawyer and founder of Auslan Media Access, Shirley Liu, said that our country still has a long way to go when it comes to supporting the interpreters.
Often the news crew zooms in on the speaker so that people cannot see Sean’s hands moving, making it almost impossible for deaf people to follow.
In the future, the scope of the screen must always include the Auslan interpreter.