The Deaf Society has been providing services and support to the community since 1913. For more than one hundred years, they have been helping deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing people and their families.
Over this time, they have become one of Australia’s leading providers of specialist services.
Their team focuses on equal access for deaf people across all aspects of society, including employment, life skills, language and relationships.
We spoke with Rosalie Kassulke from The Deaf Society about the organisation, the impact of COVID-19 and the relationship with True Accounting.
The Deaf Society services
The organisation’s mission is to “support deaf people to have a better life” and they offer a wide range of important services that achieve successful outcomes for their clients. These include:
- Employment support – to help find fulfilling and sustainable employment by working with both the individual and the potential employer.
- Education and training – offering a selection of courses such as Auslan, English, computer skills and maths and money.
- Family support – working with parents and families of deaf children, helping them navigate the NDIS and connecting them with others who have similar experiences.
- Assistive technology – providing guidance on how to utilise different assistive devices for safety and connective purposes.
- Everyday life skills – individually tailored support to enable more independence, including community events and support with everyday activities like shopping or navigating public transport.
They also offer extensive support in relation to NDIS packages. They help people to understand the details and how to maximise their package and applicable services. Empowering individuals to make informed decisions about their future is a key aspect of their role and they have extensive experience in connecting people with appropriate service providers across the community.
Celebrations and mergers
In 2013, The Deaf Society celebrated their centenary and as part of those celebrations they hosted a number of special events. Rosalie explains,
“In October 2013, we turned 100 years old and celebrated our Centenary with events throughout the year. These included hosting the 2nd International Conference of the World Federation of the Deaf. We also staged an International Deaf Film Festival and we launched a multimedia website showing our history and that of the NSW Deaf Community NSW in detail.”
This year has also seen another historic moment in the history of The Deaf Society. In March, members voted at an extraordinary general meeting on two special resolutions related to the merger of The Deaf Society and Deaf Services.
The merger will take effect from 1 October 2020, and as a united organisation, they will be able to expand their services across ACT, NSW and QLD.
Impact of COVID-19
Like many other not for profit organisations, The Deaf Society has felt the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Rosalie highlights the challenges they have faced:
“We have been impacted by COVID-19 in so many ways. Restrictions have stopped us from providing face to face resources for our Auslan courses, interpreting and other support services. We had to change the communication to video remote interpreting or Zoom, for these services.
We also found that the demand was especially high from the Office of Prime Minister and NSW Health for TV with an interpreter, and online Auslan courses.
Our support services were challenged for customers who didn’t know how to use devices for Zoom, FaceTime or Skype and we had to educate them on how to use it at a basic level.
We also found that deafblind customers at nursing homes were affected as their new rules wouldn’t allow any Deaf Society staff visits and they were left more isolated and without their usual communication.”
Every year The Deaf Society hosts the Deaf Festival. The annual event has been running since 1992 and usually takes place in October… but this year, due to the pandemic restrictions, they made the decision to organise a digital event called the Vibe Festival.
Rosalie believes it was a highly successful event:
“There was a great diversity in the offerings through the Vibe Festival website… sessions were run on YouTube or via FaceTime.
They included things like cooking, art, performance, environmentalism, comedy, storytelling, poetry… both for kids and adults. The event was all united under the umbrella of Deaf Culture & Community. This year was the first time we’ve run the Vibe Festival but it has huge benefits for the Deaf Community utilising their Auslan language to watch rather than using an interpreter.”
Working with True Accounting
The Deaf Society first connected with True Accounting in early 2017. They required an outsourced CFO to assist with reviewing their accounting system, budgetary support, internal processes and business model and to provide financial advice at the executive management and board level.
As part of the internal business shift, they also chose to move from MYOB to Xero. Rosalie explains,
“We decided to change the accounting system from MYOB after 20 years. We moved to Xero in March 2017 and we’ve seen so many benefits for finance staff… such as Receipt Bank for vendor invoices and receipts linked directly to Xero, as well as other programs like Axcelerate and Sugar CRM. They offer greater efficiency as there is much less data entry. The financial reports are significantly better and it is far quicker to generate reports for management and the board.
True Accounting oversaw a very smooth transition from MYOB to Xero. They provided us with in-house training on how to use the accounting system.
All The Deaf Society’s finance staff and the CEO are deaf, including myself. So we communicate by emails and ring them via video relay services for meetings, training or advice. They respond very quickly if we feel stuck or need help… AFG is a very friendly organisation.
They offer great accounting advice for not for profit organisations. The Deaf Society can see the benefits of working with them, especially with a focus on strategic planning.”