GALLERY: Symbio Wildlife Park supports Deaf Club

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Mercury series

Symbio Wildlife Park’s support of the deaf community in Australia is helping Sydney Deaf Club’s bid to host an international final of Miss and Mister Deaf World.

When managing director John Radnidge opened the zoo to national final contestants this week, he was stunned to hear their stories of childhood bullying and the lack of corporate support for the annual competition, which raises awareness of the capabilities of deaf people.

Mr Radnidge has encouraged other businesses to consider helping the club in its mission to help deaf people feel more connected and have the Australian sign language Auslan recognised as an official language.

Among those who visited Symbio this week were newly crowned Mister Deaf Australia Bryan Baggio, 21, of Dulwich Hill, and Miss Deaf Australia 2013 Raquel Leiva-Velasco, 20, of Brisbane.

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Ms Leiva-Velasco  spoke of the challenges she faced in life, including having other teenagers throw fruit at her when she was growing up.

‘‘But look at me now,’’ she said.

‘‘I hope any publicity this visit creates helps raise awareness about the deaf community.’’

As the inaugural Mister Deaf Australia, Mr Baggio was also excited about  helping to raise awareness about the capabilities of deaf people.

Miss Deaf Australia 2012 Samantha Fullarton and Mister Deaf Australia runner-up Jarran Harris, of Tasmania, also made the visit to Symbio.

 Last year Ms Fullarton competed in a field of 48 contestants for the 12th Miss Deaf World title and this year a Mister Deaf World competition has been added.

Sydney Deaf Club president Lorraine D’arcy, who was named Miss Deaf Australia 1974,  will be the chaperone for this year’s Australian entrants at the world final in Prague in July.

Mr Radnidge said he was staggered that all three had to pay their own way.

Last year Symbio attracted international attention when Miss Deaf World 2011 Ilaria Galbusera, of Italy, visited the park for a close encounter with native animals.

Mr Radnidge said it was important that Symbio continued to promote the message of acceptance of deaf people in the wider community.

‘‘We are doing this because we can,’’ he said. ‘‘If this makes even a small difference, it is worth it.’’

The Sydney Deaf Club has hosted two national finals in the Mister and Miss Deaf Australia competitions and Ms D’arcy’s dream is to now host the world title to help showcase the skills, performance and talent of deaf and hard of hearing people. 

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