What drives Drisana

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - Perth Airport -

YOUNG Aus­tralian of the Year Drisana Le­vitzkeGray is car­ry­ing on the fam­ily le­gacy of be­ing a strong woman ad­vo­cat­ing for the hu­man rights of peo­ple within the deaf com­mu­nity.

The Balga res­i­dent is the fifth gen­er­a­tion deaf woman in her fam­ily who has been a prom­i­nent leader and in­spi­ra­tion to women of all ages, achiev­ing many ac­co­lades in her 22 years.

Ms Le­vitzke-Gray said In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day meant cel­e­brat­ing past and present lead­ers and mak­ing sure the com­mu­nity worked to­gether for a bet­ter fu­ture.

“As a deaf woman, it is im­por­tant for us to look back and recog­nise and ac­knowl­edge the im­por­tant deaf women who have taken part in ad­vo­cat­ing and en­sur­ing that our rights are known, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to ac­cess to Aus­lan,” she said.

“My great-grand­mother Dorothy Shaw was the sec­ond of the five gen­er­a­tions of deaf women in our fam­ily and she is an iconic fig­ure in the deaf com­mu­nity.

“There are so many things we have to­day that are due to her hard work.”

Ms Le­vitzke-Gray, who is study­ing to be­come a deaf in­ter­preter, said her fo­cus was about rais­ing aware­ness and ac­cess of sign lan­guage to deaf chil­dren be­cause it was not pro­vided as a right in Australia from birth.

“We have a lot of re­search that proves that sign lan­guage has enor­mous benefits for deaf chil­dren. That re­search is used for hear­ing chil­dren in terms of cog­ni­tive devel­op­ment and baby sign. We don’t ap­ply that same re­search to deaf chil­dren. It re­duces iso­la­tion in deaf chil­dren and it re­duces men­tal health risks in chil­dren.”

Grow­ing up, Ms Le­vitzke-Gray said she was for­tu­nate to have deaf par­ents and a deaf brother, as it meant the four of them shared the same lan­guage and did not have any bar­ri­ers.

Toni Misi­tano cre­ated the Ryan Mar­ron Foun­da­tion to help with her part­ner's ex­ten­sive treat­ment and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion costs af­ter he con­tracted Mur­ray Val­ley en­cephali­tis while work­ing as a po­lice of­fi­cer in the Kim­ber­ley. ASH­LEE HAR­RI­SON Founded the Zero2Hero or­gan­i­sa­tion fol­low­ing the death of her step­dad. SELINA BELLO For her brav­ery dur­ing a stabbing attack at her South Perth hair sa­lon in which her mother An­gela Ferullo was killed. JES­SICA SMITH Cre­ator of the Join The Revo­lu­tion cam­paign and

Par­a­lympian.

Drisana Le­vitzke-Gray.

OTHER INSPIRING WOMEN WHO MADE THE LIST: TONI MISI­TANO

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