Australian Sign Language - Auslan

Deaf school children signing

Australian Sign Language

Australian Sign Language, or Auslan, is the sign language used in Australia. It has been somewhat influenced by American Sign Language, and British Sign Language.

Auslan Users - How Many?

Figures on estimates of the number of users of Auslan range from 14,000 to over 15,000.

Auslan Dictionaries Online

Some online sign language banks (dictionaries) are available. One is the Auslan Signbank, which has some password protected features.

There is some non-password protected video, an alphabet chart, a feature that lets you type a word and see it fingerspelled in the two-handed alphabet used in Auslan, and a number sign chart plus video.

SignSwap is another sign language bank online. It seems to be targeted at parents using baby sign language. The site does include a listing of sources of sign language courses in Australia, and there is also a baby sign language course database. A sister site is, a site offering sign language activities for children, resources for teachers, and help for adults.

Auslan Product Companies

Australia has its own equivalent of America's DawnsignPress, in the company Bilby Publishing 500. Bilby Publishing is the company behind the aforementioned SignSwap site, and they distribute and make several sign language products such as a Sign With Me CD, baby sign books, Auslan dictionaries, Auslan training software, posters, and even sign interpreted children's DVDs and t-shirts promoting Auslan.

Auslan Organizations

The Auslan Certification and Research Association Ltd. (ACARA) is a nonprofit organization that promotes Auslan.

Auslan Articles

Most writing on Auslan seems to have been done by Trevor Johnston, an Associate Professor and researcher at the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children's ( 's Renwick Centre (affiliated with the University of Newcastle).

He wrote the following articles about Auslan:

  • W(h)ither the Deaf Community? Population, Genetics, and the Future of Australian Sign Language. Sign Language Studies (2006) Vol. 6 No. 2. This appears to not be an article, but a discussion about Johnston's concerns for the future of Auslan due to a declining population of deaf people in Australia.
  • Nouns and verbs in Australian sign language: an open and shut case? Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education (2001) Vol. 6 No. 4 pp. 235-57.
  • Language Standardization and Signed Language Dictionaries. Sign Language Studies (2003) Vol. 3 No. 4 pp. 431-68.

Additional articles about Auslan include:

  • Yeates, Holden, Owens. "An animated Auslan Tuition System." Machine Graphics & Vision International Journal 12(2003):203-214. - about an Australian computer generated signer.
  • Hyde, Merv, Power, Des. " The Use of Australian Sign Language by Deaf People." Sign Language Studies 75(1992): 167-182.
  • There have been efforts in Australia to get Auslan recognized as a useful tool for literacy, just as we have worked to get ASL recognized as useful for improving the literacy of deaf children in the United States. Articles that describe Australia's efforts on bilingual education:
    • Ellwood, Constance. "Re-Visioning Deafness: Supporting "Literacy" in Auslan." Literacy and Numeracy Studies: An International Journal in the Education and Training of Adults 1997: vol. 7, no. 1, 77-78.
    • Komesaroff, Linda. "Adopting Bilingual Education: An Australian School Community's Journey ." Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education (2001) vol. 6 no.4, pp. 299-314.
    • Komesaroff, Linda. "Allegations of Unlawful Discrimination in Education: Parents Taking Their Fight for Auslan to the Courts." Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education (2004) vol. 9 no. 2, pp. 210-218.

    Auslan - Print Dictionaries

    These print dictionaries of Auslan have been published:

    • Dictionary of Auslan - developed by Deaf Children Australia and distributed by Bilby Publishing.
    • Australian Sign Language (Auslan): An introduction to sign language linguistics by Trevor Johnston and Adam Schembri, 2007 (ISBN 0521540569). There are also earlier sign dictionaries by Johnston, including Auslan Dictionary - A Dictionary of the Sign Language of the Australian Deaf Community (1989), Signs of Australia: a new dictionary of Auslan (the sign language of the Australian deaf community) (1998)
    • Auslan: An Introduction to Australian Sign Language is a book/video combination, by Sean Robert Skewes, ISBN 1920824154. It is available through Knowledge Books and Software in the Education - Special Needs category.

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