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deafConnectEd (dCE) Program Guide

The deafConnectEd program is intended to create equitable educational opportunities and outcomes for students who are deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students undertaking study in the VET sector.

The deafConnectEd program is intended to create equitable educational opportunities and outcomes for students who are deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students undertaking study in the vocational education and training (VET) sector. deafConnectEd does this by providing support, information and linkage services to current and future students, teachers and trainers, interpreters and notetakers in the education sector.

The deafConnectEd (dCE) program was created in 1993, formerly as the Centre of Excellence for Deaf and Hearing-Impaired Students, by the then Northern Metropolitan Institute of Technology (now Melbourne Polytechnic). The program was initially established to provide a range of supports for DHH students undertaking VET courses.

dCE now operates as a specialist centre within Melbourne Polytechnic and is committed to the inclusion and successful outcomes of students who are deaf and hard of hearing in the tertiary education sector. In supporting this commitment, dCE develops education solutions that enhance inclusion and participation through industry and community partnerships with educators, support staff, students, families and community organisations. dCE also works closely with key stakeholders and service providers including Deaf Victoria, Expression Australia and Auslan Consultancy.

For more information on dCE initiatives and partnerships, visit the deafConnectEd websiteExternal Link .

The Victorian Government has invested $10.8 billion across all Department of Education and Training (the department) portfolios to make Victoria the Education State. The Victorian Government’s vision for the Education State is to build systems and opportunities that provide young people and adult learners with the knowledge, capabilities and attributes to see them thrive throughout their lives regardless of background, circumstance or postcode. The Education State agenda is a key priority of the department.

Central to breaking the link between disadvantage and poor educational outcomes in DHH learners is ensuring that they are supported to engage in education and reach their potential for improved life opportunities. The dCE program tackles this issue by delivering core services that address the training, information and essential service needs that support DHH learner pathways.

Alongside dCE core services, the program connects DHH learners and support workers to a range of education, training and support initiatives in Victoria. Initiatives that support DHH learner pathways include accredited Auslan courses (delivered by Melbourne Polytechnic), NAATI-endorsed Auslan interpreting courses (delivered by RMIT University), Educational Signbank and some of the services offered by Expression Australia. Collectively, these initiatives fulfil the Education State agenda and the Department’s priorities in creating an equitable education system where DHH learner pathways are supported.

deafConnectEd core services

  • deafConnectEd (dCE) provides information and support services to current and future DHH learners, teachers and trainers, interpreters, support staff and notetakers. These services include:

    • supporting Disability Liaison Officers (DLO) working with DHH learners
    • providing information to DHH learners
    • providing notetakers with information and skills development through linkage to online training units
    • providing deafness awareness training for staff employed in the Victorian VET sector. This includes webinars in partnership with the VET Development Centre
    • supporting Melbourne Polytechnic and RMIT University with the delivery of education and training courses in Australian Sign Language (Auslan) and Auslan interpreting
    • working with the department’s Skills and Jobs Centres network to improve access to information and career-related services for DHH learners.
  • dCE core services are readily available for the following:

    • current DHH learners
    • future DHH learners
    • DLOs working with DHH learners
    • TAFEs and Learn Local Registered Training Organisations (RTO)
    • Victorian-based VET and dual-sector institutions (Melbourne Polytechnic and RMIT University)
    • VET teachers and trainers, including numeracy and literacy support staff
    • Auslan interpreters and notetakers.

What is Auslan?

Auslan is a distinct visual language that uses manual communication and gestures instead of verbal sounds to express speakers’ thoughts and meaning. This involves a wide range of hand shapes, facial expressions and the orientation and movements of the hands, arms or body.

There is no universal sign language, which makes Auslan unique to Australia. The term Auslan is a blend of Australian Sign Language. The term was coined in the early 1980s. However, the language itself is much older and has evolved over several decades. Auslan is the sign language of people in Australia who are deaf or hard of hearing. It is unique to Australia, featuring its own grammar and vocabulary. Auslan is used widely across Australia by the DHH community, interpreters, translators and other professionals who support DHH people.

Where can I study Auslan?

  • Melbourne Polytechnic was the proud recipient of a funding grant from the Department in 2019, to enable the delivery of a range of essential projects at the time. One such project was the establishment of Melbourne Polytechnic’s Auslan Training program, featuring a suite of accredited courses. These courses cater to a diverse range of students, including adults aspiring to work as Auslan interpreters, parents of children who are deaf and hard of hearing, friends, families and colleagues of people who are deaf and hard of hearing wanting to provide an inclusive environment or workplace, professionals that want to provide services and communicate directly with clients who are deaf and hard of hearing clients or anyone who loves learning new languages.

    Melbourne Polytechnic is now Victoria’s sole VET provider of several professionally recognised qualifications. The Certificate II in Auslan offered by Melbourne Polytechnic provides the beginning of the only accredited pathway to learn Auslan in Victoria. The range of accredited courses offered by Melbourne Polytechnic also provide a pathway to enrol in Auslan interpreter training offered at RMIT University.

    Accredited Auslan courses teach signing skills as well as cultural and historical knowledge of the deaf community. The courses are taught at both Prahran and Preston Melbourne Polytechnic campuses.

    All Auslan courses offered at Melbourne Polytechnic include a multi-modal delivery with face-to-face teaching and online and video conferencing.

    What Auslan courses are available at Melbourne Polytechnic?

    Melbourne Polytechnic offers accredited Auslan VET courses across a range of different Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) levels, such as:

    • Certificate II of Auslan
    • Certificate III of Auslan
    • Certificate IV of Auslan
    • Diploma of Auslan.

    How can people apply for Auslan training at Melbourne Polytechnic?

    Prospective students can apply for their selected Auslan Training course via the Melbourne Polytechnic course application formExternal Link .

    Are there any prerequisites for courses at Melbourne Polytechnic?

    There are no formal prerequisites required for the Certificate II of Auslan course at Melbourne Polytechnic. All new students must attend a compulsory Information Session, and an interview will be scheduled prior to enrolment to determine your suitability for the course.

    For entry into higher level qualifications offered applicants must have successfully completed the preceding certificate level qualification.

    For more information about Auslan Training at Melbourne Polytechnic, visit the courses webpageExternal Link .

Where can I study Auslan Interpreter and Translation courses?

  • The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT University) is the sole Victorian institution that delivers courses endorsed by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI). NAATI-endorsed courses lead to nationally accredited qualifications and vocational pathways in Auslan interpreting and translation.

    RMIT University’s NAATI-endorsed Auslan courses equip students with the skills and knowledge required for general Auslan dialogue and monologue settings, as well as applied learning of professional ethics and industry knowledge. These are essential skills for learners seeking a vocational pathway into Auslan interpreting or translation.

    RMIT University offers a range of NAATI-endorsed courses across the following AQF levels:

    • Diploma of Interpreting
    • Advanced Diploma of Interpreting
    • Graduate Diploma in Translating and Interpreting.

    How to apply

    Future students can apply for their selected Auslan Training course via the RMIT University course application formExternal Link .


    To enrol in the Diploma applicants must successfully pass an interview in Auslan and non-conventional sign language (NCSL), in which the applicant will be asked to demonstrate receptive (sight) comprehension skills, and appropriate sign production and articulation skills.

    Learners interested in the Advanced Diploma of Interpreting must meet the following prerequisites:

    • have successfully completed Australian Year 12 or equivalent senior secondary school studies or an RMIT Foundation Skills program, or
    • have successfully completed the Interpreting Skills for NAATI Certification, Translating Skills for NAATI Certification or Translating and Interpreting Skills for NAATI Certification, or
    • have successfully completed a Diploma of Interpreting, Diploma of Translating or equivalent in a related field, or
    • hold a NAATI certification at Certified Provisional Interpreter, Recognised Practicing Interpreter or Certified Translator level or higher, or
    • hold at least 2 years of documented work experience as an interpreter or a translator, and
    • undertake a Bilingual Intake Test.

    Learners interested in the Graduate Diploma in Translating and Interpreting must meet the following criterion:

    • have completed a Bachelor-level degree (e.g. Bachelor of International Studies [Languages]) in any discipline.

    For more information on NAATI-endorsed courses at RMIT University, please visit the courses webpageExternal Link .

Can I get support while studying Auslan courses in Victoria?

  • The department’s Skills First Program provides government-subsidised training in select VET courses for Victorians under the age of 24 years who are experiencing disadvantage. This means that young future learners may be eligible for a tuition fee-waiver if they meet the Skills First selection criteria.

    To be eligible for a Skills First tuition fee-waiver, future learners must be:

    • physically present in the state of Victoria where training and assessment activities are being undertaken, and
    • an Australian citizen or holder of a permanent visa, or a New Zealand Citizen (visa 444).

    Tuition fee-waivers under the Skills First Program apply to the following course areas at TAFEs and dual-sector universities:

    • programs that are at a higher AQF level than the highest qualification held at the time of the scheduled commencement of training (‘upskilling’)
    • programs on the Foundation Skills List (unless the individual already holds a qualification issued by an Australian VET or higher education provider that is at AQF level 5 [Diploma] or higher)
    • training as an apprentice (not trainee) under an approved training scheme
    • training in the VCE or the VCAL (intermediate or senior)
    • a Skills First-funded skill set.

    Skills First Training limit exemptions

    Eligible learners under the Skills Firstprogram are usually subject to maximum limits on how much Skills First training they can undertake within certain timeframes. These limits are:

    • 2 Skills First subsidised skill sets in a calendar year (the ‘2 Skill Sets in a year’ limit)
    • 2 Skills First subsidised programs that are AQF qualifications in a calendar year (the ‘2 AQF qualifications in a year’ limit)
    • 2 Skills First subsidised programs at any one time (the ‘2 at a time’ limit)
    • commence a maximum of two government-subsidised programs in their lifetime that are at the same AQF level (the ‘2 at level in a lifetime’ limit).

    However, given the nature of Auslan courses whereby participants may already have other professional qualifications prior to undertaking Auslan courses, participants may be granted an exemption/fee waiver to support their training in Auslan and pathways to becoming a qualified Auslan Interpreter or translator

    Contact Melbourne Polytechnic or RMIT University to determine your eligibility for an exemption.

  • What is Expression Australia?

    Expression Australia is a non-profit organisation created by and for members of the DHH community. Expression Australia’s purpose is to empower people who are deaf, hard of hearing or LGBTIQA+ to overcome barriers in life and choose their pathway.

    Expression Australia provides a complete interpreting service called Auslan Connections. Auslan Connections connects DHH people and support workers to Auslan interpreting, notetaking, captioning, transcription and translation services. Furthermore, Auslan Connections supports DHH people to participate fully in all aspects of life.

    Expression Australia is a key partner, providing a wide array of services and support to DHH community members across Victoria and in Tasmania.

    What support does Expression Australia offer?

    Expression Australia offers a broad range of supports and services to DHH people and support workers. Such services include:

    • offering a range of introductory courses in Auslan, including Auslan programs for children
    • deaf awareness training for businesses to bolster inclusivity and equity for DHH workers
    • facilitating a Language Service Provider system, which employs a pool of interpreters that are contracted out to other Victorian organisations (focused on VET provision)
    • interpreting and captioning services
    • linking to audiology and communication supports for DHH people, including assistive technologies
    • linking to education and employment services
    • support coordination and assistance with NDIS plans for DHH people
    • linking to the department’s Reconnect program.
  • What is the Educational Signbank?

    The Educational Signbank is an initiative that expands on the Auslan Signbank, the national language resources site for Auslan. The Auslan Signbank resources site shows users the following information:

    • a comprehensive Auslan dictionary
    • videos of DHH people using and demonstrating Auslan signs
    • information on the DHH community in Australia
    • links to Auslan classes and other learning resources
    • Auslan signs relating to education and teaching topics, featured in the Educational Signbank.

    The Auslan Signbank already contains signs that are related to education. However, this resource is currently limited. To address this limitation, dCE has joined industry partners to expand the resources available to DHH students and interpreters working in the VET sector. This joint venture is carried out as the Educational Signbank, which is now a key initiative of the dCE program.

    Funding the dCE Educational Signbank

    The department funds the Educational Signbank to provide deaf learners, deaf professionals and Auslan interpreters who work in relevant fields or have interest in pursuing a pathway into these fields, an expanded database of Auslan lexical items for interpreting highly specialised English terminology.

    Under the Education Signbank initiative the department provides dCE with a grant to expand the contents of the Auslan Signbank. Alignment and responsiveness to evolving government priorities have informed the focus of the previous Signbank recommendations and have included the following areas as they relate to VET:

    • automotive industry (in partnership with the Victorian College for the Deaf)
    • hospitality, language and literacy and occupational health and safety
    • community services, family violence and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)
    • student wellbeing including emergency health announcements and COVID-19, mental health, and neurodiversity in the educational context.

Reviewed 14 September 2023

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