behind the scenes
We are committed to making the benefits of using Australia’s natural sign language accessible to anyone who needs it or wants it.
Why use MyAuslan?
We are proudly Deaf-owned and Deaf-led, and wherever possible support the Deaf business eco-system.
We are passionate about preserving, nurturing and propagating authentic Auslan – the natural language and cultural heart of Australia’s Deaf community.
MyAuslan’s founder, Darlene Thornton, was the oldest of three deaf children born into a deaf family in western Sydney. Her sisters, parents and grandparents were also Deaf, as were many of her aunts and uncles and several cousins. So Auslan is her native language. Until the age of 7 Darlene thought everyone in the world knew how to sign, except those poor disabled people at the shops who couldn’t talk but made strange movements with their mouth! Darlene grew up with a love for language and would take every opportunity at frequent deaf community events to observe a wide array of adults signing and absorb the various techniques they applied to different genres and contexts.
At school, Darlene soon realised that most of the other Deaf children were not as fortunate as her and were not born into Deaf families and surrounded by fluent Auslan in their homes. She naturally became the language model through which many of these children learned, and helped to teach them the intricacies of Auslan, with its unique grammar and syntax, as well as the subtleties of deaf culture. You could say she has been an Auslan teacher all her life.
The first in her family to go to university, Darlene graduated from Macquarie Uni with a degree in linguistics and education, focusing on sign language. By her early 20s she was already one of Australia’s foremost experts on Auslan.
It was about this time Darlene started to come across many deaf young adults who had grown up without access to Auslan at all. They had been educated in oral programmes (some has cochlear implants), and commonly their parents had been persuaded to avoid using any sign language by medical professionals. That advice was based on two profoundly misguided beliefs: firstly, that ability to speak was the most important goal for a deaf child, rather than acquisition of language; and secondly, that using sign would somehow reduce their motivation to learn to speak. While some of these young deaf adults Darlene met could indeed speak well, most of them had suffered from social isolation, struggled to “fit in” in the hearing world (including those with implant), and experienced a common array of social, educational, and psychological challenges.
The experience of helping these people find a home in the deaf community and belatedly learn the joy of communicating in a natural sign language (Auslan) gave Darlene her first understanding of the devastating consequences of language deprivation. Since then she has studied the subject of language deprivation extensively, as well as studying the process by which people acquire first and second languages and the latest techniques in language learning.
Darlene thus became a passionate advocate for the importance of giving all Deaf children the opportunity to be immersed in their natural sign language (regardless of whether they use a cochlear implant or not). This passion was the inspiration behind MyAuslan, and its mission to provide a fast, easy, affordable way for families and friends of deaf children or adults, or people who work with them, to learn Auslan.
When I was 4, as we walked down the mall at Campbelltown (somewhere in NSW), I asked my mum why people at the shops were sad and ignoring each other.
Her answer shocked me.
She replied that they were not sad, and that they do talk to each other, just not the same way as we do.
That was when I realised that actually my family is quite different to the general. You see, as we use sign language to talk to each other all the time. And that we are quite rare in that there are not many families with deaf parents and deaf children.
Did Ya Know?
There are two groups of signers in Australia – deaf and non-deaf (or hearing) and both can be native or not.
You can sign through glass, under the water, over the distance and video chat without using your voice.
I know, mind blowing!
Careers & Auslan
You could be working with deaf adults or children in various settings.
Teacher, interpreter, support worker, speech pathologist, nurse, and many more…
Me in a nutshell
Hi, I'm Darlene
A proud Deaf bilingual native Auslan user (quite a mouthful, eh?), a mother to 4 non-deaf human kids and a large collection of furry & feathery kids.
A bibliophile and a writer.
Taught Auslan for over 30 years to people from 0 to 99 (yes, I like Lego).
Degrees in Linguistics, Education, and Family History (I know – I am a geek!).
A hunter and collector of both dead and living deaf people in Australia. Fun fact – I have over 15 deaf relatives in my family, spanning 4 generations.