About MyAuslan

behind the scenes

Our Purpose

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.


Our Story

Darlene (centre, age 8) with her two Deaf sisters
Born into a Deaf Family

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.

Copy of My grandfather conversed with Mr. Flectcher Booth in the 1930s
Darlene (age 7) trying to sign to Santa at Campbelltown, NSW

When I was 4, as we walked down the mall at Campbelltown (in SW Sydney), 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. They use their mouths and make sounds.


That was when I realised that actually my family is quite different to the norm!

That moment . . .

Until the age of 4 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's grandfather (left) conversing with legendary Deaf community leader
Fletcher Booth in the 1930s
Absorbing Language and Culture

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.

Darlene teaching at Thomas Pattison School, 1994
Becoming a "Teacher"

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 late 20s she was already one of Australia’s foremost experts on Auslan.

Current attempts to “include” deaf children in mainstream society– via exclusive use of the cochlear implant for language acquisition, prioritization of speech and communication strategies, and absence or withholding of American Sign Language exposure– may actually promote lifelong exclusion through associated developmental consequences

 ~ Hall. WC et al. American Journal of Public Health (2018). Pp 1079-1081

The Impact of Audism

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 had cochlear implants), and often their parents had been persuaded by medical professionals to avoid using any sign language.

When I finally learned Auslan I was overwhelmed with emotion.  Why did no-one tell me communicating could be so easy and effortless? 

I finally realised – that’s how hearing people must hear!

~ Belinda, a Deaf adult*

Understanding Language Deprivation

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 explains the purpose of MyAuslan

Why MyAuslan was Born

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.

Fun Facts

  • 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.