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Auslan chaplain breaks the silence with deaf students

The room is silent, but there is plenty being said between YouthCARE chaplain Corey Piestrzeniewicz and a couple of her students.

Mrs Piestrzeniewicz is the first YouthCARE chaplain to be placed because of her knowledge of Auslan – the sign language of the Australian Deaf community.

Mrs Piestrzeniewicz worked for the WA Deaf Society as a Paraprofessional Auslan Interpreter, before making the switch to chaplaincy.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity to still be in the Deaf community and work specifically with young people in a very privileged position,” she said. “It takes a lot of courage and trust for a teenager to open up and be vulnerable with someone. The fact that I get to be that person for these students is a huge honour that I don’t take lightly.”

“Being able to communicate effectively without needing an interpreter, has given the students the opportunity to talk to someone who knows the uniqueness of their culture and community in a private and confidential setting - it brings a sense of comfort and ease to the situation.”

Principal Leanne Potter said Corey was “a gift to our deaf school”.

“Not only does she visit students out of hours in homes and hospitals when they are unwell, she does the same for staff - often armed with food,” she said.

“It is really important to have someone in the school like a chaplain, because they fill the rather large cracks that can appear, that teachers have no time to attend to.

“As far as we know, we have the only chaplain/interpreter in Australia and we are very proud of our Australian First.”