DBC Newsblast: October 2011
Monday, 17 October 2011

Letter to Telstra Corporation
Business Woman of the Year Selection

October 16, 2011

David Thodey CEO,
Telstra Corporation,

On behalf of the Deaf Bilingual Coalition, we strongly recommend that you rescind Dimity Dornan’s award for Telstra’s Queensland Business Woman of the Year on grounds of cultural and language bigotry. As reported by the Sidney Morning Herald, Dornan stated, “Deafness is a scourge that can be eradicated and consigned to history, just like polio”.

This culturally insensitive comment is quite offensive to the global world of Deaf people who are proud to be Deaf, and cherish their signed languages and cultures in their respective countries. We do not see being Deaf as a “disability” needing to be mitigated by those trying to “help” the deaf. We reject the medical/disability view that comes with the term “deafness”. Dornan’s comment that promotes the eradication of a characteristic of Deaf people is reminiscent of historical attempts by governments to eradicate the language and culture of indigenous peoples with the goal of assimilating them.

Unfortunately, attempts to eradicate the language and culture of Deaf people continue to this day. Dr. Dornan is a former member of the Alexander Graham Bell Association, an American organization founded by Alexander Graham Bell in the 1800’s. Alexander Graham Bell was actively involved with eugenics and promoted the eradication of Deaf culture and language in the name of assimilating Deaf children into the majority society. His philosophy persists in the organization that bears his name. Dr. Dornan continues to spread this message of cultural and language bigotry long after she has left the organization.

On your website, it is clear that Telstra is a community-minded corporation that has been involved in a company-wide initiative that support “priority groups” such as women, indigenous peoples and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) employees. This record is in direct contradiction with the action of rewarding Dr. Dornan for her bigotry toward Deaf people.

Telstra’s Business Woman of the Year organizers and its judges should seek candidates that do not practice bigotry towards any cultural or linguistic minorities, including the Deaf community, in any shape or form.

We urge you to make things right for the Deaf community who sees itself as a cultural and linguistic group.

Deaf Bilingual Coalition

cc: Mark Steyn, Hudson
Ralph Norris, Commonwealth Bank

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