PARHAM’S very own Johanna Plante, has been named as the Deaf Sports Australia Volunteer of the Year.
This prestigious prize was awarded to Johanna for her selfless dedication to help further deaf sport, which sees her volunteer for roles with Deaf Community and Sports South Australia, the TAFE SA Deaf education/training program and the Australian Communications and Consumer Action Network, all of which culminated in her volunteering, almost full time, to organise and deliver the 2016 Australian Deaf Games.
Organising the event was no small feat as it involved coordinating 1,000 athletes, officials and spectators.
Her work included producing valuable documents that will be used as templates for future Australian Deaf Games.
She worked hard to lift the Games’ Organising Committee and appointed and managed a large team of volunteers to assist with the planning, organising and delivery of the Games.
“Though there were times over the two years that were certainly challenging, I feel privileged to have been embraced by this wonderful community and given the unique opportunity to be integrally involved in such an iconic Deaf community sporting event,” Johanna said.
DSA is Australia’s peak body for deaf sport, providing and advocating participation and elite pathways for deaf and hard of hearing athletes.
It runs a number of vital programs, including the widely respected Active Deaf Kids Program.
“The DSA awards are a celebration of the amazing achievements of deaf and hard of hearing athletes, as well as an opportunity to recognise the contributions of those involved in the community,” Irene Farinacci, sports development manager at Deaf Sorts Australia, said.
When looking at Johanna’s impressive education, career, and volunteering roles, it is little wonder she became an integral, and well-appreciated, driving force behind the organisation of the Australian Deaf Games.
After graduating with first class honours in a Communications Engineering degree from the University of Western Australia in 1973, she became the first female engineer in the ‘Post Master General’s Department’ (Telstra).
After a long career in the telecommunications industry, she spent the latter 15 years of her career consulting with consumer groups, including the disability and deaf sectors, and it was here she was exposed to and “fell in love with AUSLAN,” Australian Sign Language.
She stresses that although she is not fluent in sign language, she is able to interact and relate with deaf people pleasantly and effectively, being accepted into the deaf community.
“I’m sure my bright red lipstick helps the lip-reading,” she laughed.
Her husband, Rick Campbell, grew up near Balaklava, so after both retiring early from their careers in Sydney, made a huge sea change, relocating to Parham.
Johanna became involved in the Port Parham Sports and Social Club, immersing herself in the local community while building their new home, but once that was finished, said she needed a new project.
“With great trepidation and very little confidence, notwithstanding my recently acquired AUSLAN ‘skills’, I made my entrance in to the SA community initially as a volunteer classroom tutor with the TAFE SA Deaf Education/Training Course.
“I also took on the role of coordinating the Volunteer Program associated with that course and more than 10 years later, am still doing so.”
And so her involvement with the SA Deaf community increased and she was approached to contribute to the organising of the Games.
“The communication, liaison and facilitation roles that characterised that last 15 years of my full-time working life, served me well in both the planning and implementation stages of the Games.
“And I’ve no doubt my inherent ‘perfectionist’ tendencies, and undeniable obsessive compulsiveness, would have played a big part in ensuring everything came together at the end,” she confessed.
Johanna’s skills are now being directed towards international events.
“I’m currently the event coordinator for the inaugural World Deaf Rugby Sevens tournament being staged in Sydney in April, 2018.
“This promises to be the biggest Deaf rugby event the world has seen – the first ever international/national Deaf Rugby Sevens competition anywhere in the world.”
It is difficult to imagine this accomplished individual being anything but productive in her professional and personal life, however, she does divulge her Friday and Saturday nights sees her socialise with Parham locals at the social club’s bar, as well as ferrying her husband and one of his mates to their beloved Mallala footy games during the football season.
If you do see her, I’m sure she would have some interesting tales to tell.
You can’t miss her, just look for the red lipstick!