City of Newcastle celebrates sporting life of Deaf community through Australian-first exhibition

03 Nov 2023

Experiencing what it's like for an athlete to watch lights instead of listening for the starter's gun is just one of the features of Australia's first major exhibition to explore the importance of sport in Deaf culture.

“More Than Sport – History, Culture and Connection in Deaf and Hard of Hearing Communities” officially opened at Newcastle City Library today ahead of the 60th anniversary of the Australian Deaf Games, which will see more than 1000 athletes, officials and visitors converge on Newcastle and Lake Macquarie for the week-long event in January next year.

Curated by Deaf Sports Australia, which is also celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2024, the accessible exhibition at the Library’s Lovett Gallery will showcase stories from across Australia and around the world through a series of videos, photographs and memorabilia.

Archival footage of Deaf sports, legendary Australian Deaf and Hard of Hearing athletes and major tournaments such as the 2005 Melbourne Deaflympics and Australian Deaf Games will be displayed without any accompanying sound to help create a 'deaf' atmosphere, with videos featuring people signing in Auslan (Australian Sign Language). Text-based stories will also have QR codes to access an Auslan translation.

Deaf Sports Australia General Manager Phil Harper said competitions in Australia can be traced back as far as 1895, when the Victorian Deaf cricket team faced their South Australian counterparts. The first deaf sports club, the Melbourne Deaf Cricket Club, was established in 1881.

"Sport has been a key motivator for people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing to connect with one another for more than 140 years," Mr Harper said.

"The curatorial team that put this exhibition together is comprised of several people from the Deaf community. They've developed the content to celebrate our history, our pioneers and champions, as well as the role technology has played in improving our access to sport."

Australia's proud history in Deaf sports is highlighted by recognising John Lovett, a giant in Australian and international Deaf sports and through our athletes such as gold medal winning paratriathlete Katie Kelly OAM, dual Commonwealth Games swimmer Cindy-Lu Bailey OAM, the most successful woman in Deaflympics history, as well as skier Andrew Swan, a Deaflympics Winter Games gold medallist and Frank Bartolillo, an Olympian in fencing.

Visitors can view memorabilia from different eras, as well as the John Lovett trophy, which is awarded to the winning state or territory at the Australian Deaf Games.

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said City of Newcastle is proud to help the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community mark a new milestone.

"Newcastle prides itself on being a liveable and inclusive city so we're delighted to showcase the past, present and future of Deaf sport in Australia," Cr Nelmes said.

Councillor Margaret Wood, co-chair of City of Newcastle’s Access and Inclusion Advisory Committee said the community-driven exhibition has been developed as a collaboration between City of Newcastle Libraries staff and members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.

"I want to encourage Novocastrians to visit the exhibition and also attend an event during the Australian Deaf Games in January, where competitors from all over Australia and Pacific Island nations will utilise 12 venues across our city during this major sporting event," Cr Wood said.

The “More Than Sport – History, Culture and Connection in Deaf and Hard of Hearing Communities” exhibition will be on display at the Lovett Gallery until March 2024.

School students will be provided with a workbook as part of an exhibition experience, which features fun activities such as learning more about Auslan.

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For details about the Australian Deaf Games go to: