Our History

Before 1913

The first recorded information about the Deaf Community reports that European deaf people arrived in the Sydney area as early as 1790. Sadly, there is little information about the indigenous Deaf Community prior to colonisation. Some deaf migrants were convicts sent from Britain as punishment for various crimes while others migrated as free settlers.

Deaf children born in the new colony prior to the establishment of the first school for the deaf in September 1860 by Thomas Pattison from Scotland were usually sent back to England for their education.

There were no formal meeting places for deaf people in the Sydney area for most of the 19th Century. Deaf people met at the deaf school premises and at churches which provided special services. They often congregated around lamp-posts to converse in sign language. Later, Deaf adults met together at St Alban's Church, Darlington.

1913 - 1929

Oct 1913

Public meeting in the Sydney Town Hall resolved to form an association, the Adult Deaf and Dumb Society of New South Wales “to take on the spiritual, intellectual, moral and social needs of these afflicted people.” The Adult Deaf and Dumb Society rented rooms at 433 Pitt Street, Sydney and later moved to other venues, including the Sydney Protestant Hall and Daking House. Later, land was bought in Redfern.

Aug 1922

The Adult Deaf and Dumb Society was incorporated under the Companies Act. During this time, services centred on religious education. Deaf people began organising themselves into various sporting and interest groups but had very little say in the management of the Society itself.


Land was bought in De Mestre Place, Sydney and sold for a large profit in 1927


Elizabeth House, 5 Elizabeth St, Sydney was purchased and remained the headquarters of the Society until 1970.

Late 1920s

Employment of the first full time welfare director. Deaf people wanted more say in the management of the organisation which led to establishment of the New South Wales Association of Deaf and Dumb Citizens.

A few years later, the New South Wales Association of Deaf and Dumb Citizens dissolved and the two organisations combined as the Adult Deaf and Dumb Society of New South Wales. (The NSW State government refused to register both organisations as their aims and objectives were the same).

1930 - 1950

By 1930, welfare services increased. The 1930 Annual Report noted that the Adult Deaf Society had: "The best equipped welfare centre in Australia with four floors comprising of chapel and vestry, class room, assembly hall, dormitory, three games rooms, organising secretary's office, library, billiard room, ping-pong room, lounge room and men's dressing room."


The first Deaf General Committee was formed and an adult school was started for adults who had received no education during childhood. Helen Keller Chapel, in Elizabeth House, was opened, which was later to be transferred to the Stanmore Centre. Church services were run continually in the chapel for over 50 years.


Opening of Blackall House, Newcastle.

Late 1930s

Increases in staff.


A hostel was established at Summer Hill "because of the dangerous area in which Elizabeth House was situated"


Helen Keller visited Sydney and opened Gordon Davis House Youth Hostel at Stanmore.

1950 - 1974


The first hostel for aged people "Alfred Lonsdale House" in Strathfield was set up. More services and staff increased and Deaf people became more involved in the planning of programs and activities.


James Laskie Holiday Home at Lake Macquarie (Newcastle) was purchased. This was sold in 1958 when the Newcastle Branch was established and its first full time welfare worker appointed.


Deaf General Committee was established which continued until 1985.
Dey House, an extension of Gordon Davis House was built and housed more than 90 people. Dey House was later used as the Society's office, while the Stanmore Centre was being built, and was later demolished.


The Oral Division was established as a separate division for 12 years until members asked for it to be closed in 1971.


The Silent Messenger was registered as a periodical. This magazine is still being produced by Deaf Australia (NSW).


Wollongong Branch was set up.


Elizabeth House was sold and the office transferred to Stanmore.


Parramatta Regional Centre was established and was the first centre to be fully managed by a committee of elected people who were Deaf

1975 - 1993

March 1975

The word "Dumb" was deleted from the title of the Society - the organisation became known as the Adult Deaf Society of New South Wales.

6 Dec 1975

Official opening of the Stanmore Deaf Centre by the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Roden Cutler.


Opening of the Stanmore Lawn Bowls Green, special play group for hearing children of Deaf parents, and the Mattara Club, a community club for Deaf men.

May 1979

Lonsdale House Aged Person's Home at Strathfield was closed and a new Nursing Home at Stanmore was officially opened.


Deaf community representatives were elected to the Board of Management and Deaf people joined the staff. Consumer consultative bodies were established. Separation of the Community Work and Interpreting Departments, and the appointment of Co-ordinators to manage each of the Deaf Society's services.


Kenneth W Tribe Fellowship Fund was established by the Board of Directors to provide financial assistance to Deaf people who wanted to study.


Adult Education Centre for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Persons (later renamed Deaf Education Network) was established. The Adult Deaf Society became The Deaf Society of New South Wales highlighting the fact that services were available to all Deaf people, including children, and that it had a state-wide focus. De-institutionalisation of Gordon Davis House Hostel leading to the Community Housing Program, which provided independent living skills training for its residents.


Leadership Development Program was set up to encourage Deaf people to accept positions of responsibility and leadership in the Deaf community and hearing world. Auslan was recognised by the Australian government as a "community language other than English" and the preferred language of the deaf community in a policy statement.


After a long trial, Ethnic Affairs Commission of NSW (EAC) became responsible for the provision of Sign Language Interpreters to the courts, government departments and other fee-for-service work on a permanent basis. (Auslan was the 90th Community Language at the EAC).

1994 - current

Oct 1994

Sale of the Stanmore property to Newington College and relocation to Macquarie Street in Parramatta.


Residents of Lonsdale Hostel were transferred to Mullauna Lodge, Blacktown.


"Hands Up New South Wales", a demographic study of the Deaf community in NSW was published with the information used to assist in developing services to fill identified gaps in service provision.


Anne Mac Rae Technology Scheme established in partnership with Technical Aid for the Disabled.


First Auslan Heritage School set up with the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children. At this Saturday school, family members learn Auslan and Deafness awareness, while their children improve Auslan through structured play activities. Publication of a quarterly newsletter in plain English, "Hands On News", which focuses on current issues in both the Deaf and wider communities commenced.


Video remote interpreting (VRI) services commenced as a pilot program with IBM Australia. VRI uses videoconferencing technology to allow Deaf people to access on-demand interpreting services from interpreters based at the Society office.

Launched the Lismore office.

Walk In Outreach service established at Orange.


Launched the Coffs Harbour office.

After years of lobbying by the Deaf Society of NSW and other state Deaf Societies, the Federal government started funding private medical interpreting.


Accredited as a Registered Training Organisation.

Partnership established (as part of the Australian Federation of Deaf Societies) with WestWood Spice to run the National Relay Service - Outreach Service.


Deaf Education Network (formerly the Adult Education Centre for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Persons) merged with The Deaf Society of New South Wales.

Accredited as a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) by the NSW Vocational Education Training and Accreditation Board (VETAB).

Walk In Outreach service established at Tweed Heads.


Successfully added the Diploma of Auslan to the Deaf Society’s Scope of Registration (the only RTO approved to award this qualification in NSW).

Establishment of two new regional branch offices in Tamworth and Albion Park Rail (south of Wollongong).

Implemented the John Ferris Interpreter Internship Project to mentor Auslan interpreters.

Walk In Outreach services established in Port Macquarie and Nowra.

Established the Deaf Professionals Network (with the support of Deaf Australia NSW).

Anthony Gorringe appointed as first deaf President of the Deaf Society of NSW


Commencement of the Deaf Society’s Translation Service

Relocated our head office and training facilities to new premises in Phillip Street Parramatta, providing more space and facilities enabling us to provide an improved service.

Worked with Kangan Institute of TAFE in Melbourne to develop the new Diploma of Auslan curriculum.

Launched Sign Language Communications NSW/ACT as part of a national brand.

Extended our Employment support services to an outreach service on the Central Coast.


Implemented a new Strategic Plan for 2010-2013 including revised Vision and Mission Statements.

Employment Service changed transitioned from a Disability Employment Network provider to a Disability Employment Service provider.

Adoption of a new Constitution.

Signed Memoranda of Understanding with four partner agencies; Deaf Australia NSW, Ephpheta Centre, Parents of Deaf Children (formerly Parent Council for Deaf Education) and Australian Sign Language Interpreters’ Association NSW.

SLC NSW/ACT commenced providing a 24-Hour Emergency Interpreter Booking Service for the Deaf Community in the ACT.

Nola Colefax OAM appointed first deaf Vice-Patron of the Deaf Society of NSW.


Commenced the Smoke Alarm Subsidy Scheme (a three year program in conjunction with Ageing, Disability and Homecare, Department of Family and Community Services and Fire and Rescue NSW), to provide visual/tactile smoke alarms for deaf, hard of hearing and deafblind people in NSW.

Implementation of the new Strategic Plan for 2011-2015 to more closely align the Deaf Society of NSW’s plan with the objectives of Deaf Australia’s plan.

Commenced the “Increasing the Resilience of the Deaf Community in NSW to Natural Hazards and Disasters” project in partnership with UNSW Australia-Pacific Tsunami Research Centre and Natural Hazards Research Laboratory, NSW State Emergency Service (SES), NSW Rural Fire Service and Fire & Rescue NSW

Successful bid to host the 2nd International Conference of the World Federation of the Deaf in Sydney.


Establishment of the Deaf Society’s new Advocacy and Community Development department.

In October 2013, we turned 100 years old and celebrated our Centenary with special events throughout the year which include: hosting the 2nd International Conference of the World Federation of the Deaf; staging an International Deaf Film Festival and the launch of a multimedia website showing our history and that of the NSW Deaf Community NSW in detail.