Mimi Nguyen started primary school completely reliant on her Australian sign language interpreters, now she freely signs with friends after some lessons.
The 12-year-old who is deaf with two cochlear implants still relies on Auslan interpreters to go to school but has been teaching her classmates Auslan at Kiama Public School every Tuesday afternoon.
"A few years ago my friends started learning Auslan, their signing has really improved," Mimi signed through an interpreter.
One of Mimi's interpreters, Bethany Vaughan-Floyd said some of the students in Mimi's class are already proficient in Auslan after learning for a few years.
"If they're in a group discussion I'm hanging back because [Mimi doesn't] need me because [she] can just freely chat with them," Mrs Vaughan-Floyd said.
The students are ahead of the curve with the recent announcement that Auslan will become an elective language subject across public schools in 2026.
Auslan teacher Maria Roccon taught Mimi sign language since she was a baby and is looking forward to NSW schools becoming a more inclusive spaces for deaf and hard-of-hearing children.
A future where all students know Auslan may mean students like Mimi are less reliant on her cochlear implants.
"Life would be easy, I mean we have to charge the cochlear implants and we have to make sure that we give the roger pen [hearing aid microphone] to the teacher. We need to have a lot of responsibility," Ms Roccon said.
The Unanderra mother-of-three is deaf and teaches Auslan for Deaf Connect and TAFE NSW.
While the Auslan syllabus will be rolled out in 2026, some Illawarra schools that are already prepared and eager will begin teaching earlier.
"This is something that we were aiming for for years, it was hard work," Ms Roccon said.
She said she was "jumping for joy" when the announcement was made but her one concern is who will be employed to teach the students Auslan.
"I already know of two people that are not deaf who have said to me 'I've been asked to teach'," Ms Roccon said.
"It's not fully wrong. It's just wrong because they should be thinking of deaf people to teach that language because it's their language."
The syllabus was released to primary and secondary schools on August 22, 2023 and developed in close consultation with the deaf community and schools with two rounds of feedback.
"We see this syllabus as a much-needed starting point, that will empower deaf individuals, promote their linguistic rights and give all students the chance to authentically experience a unique part of Australia's linguistic heritage," a spokesperson of NSW Education Standards Authority said.
"Decisions about teaching the syllabus will be made by schools and education sectors in consultation with the Deaf community."
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