Auslan is the name for the native sign language of the Australian Deaf community. It is a visual/spatial language which uses a variety of combined elements to convey meaning:
Handshapes: Auslan has disinct handshapes with other elements to express a word or concept.
Orientation: Signs can be oriented to different sides of the body, with the handshapes facing different directions.
Location: Signs may be placed in different locations in relation to the body which can change the meaning of the sign.
Movement: This includes head, arm and hand movement. Body movements are integral part of the subtleties of the language.
Expression: Facial expression is a vital part of Auslan. A raised eyebrow, pursed lips or squinted eyes can convey a precise meaning of a sign. Intonation is often expressed through facial expression.
Auslan has its own grammatical rules and does not use English word order. Each country has its own native sign language. Auslan was officially recognised in 1991.
Auslan is generally used by individuals with a hearing loss who identify with the cultural model of deafness, as opposed to the medical, deficient model. The cultural model recognises Deaf people as a CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) community as opposed to a disability group.
People who use Auslan and are proud of their language and culture and identify themselves as "Deaf with a capital D".
People who do not prefer Auslan, generally use speech and listening to communicate usually prefer to identify as hard of hearing or deaf with lower case d.
Other native users of Auslan are hearing children of Deaf adults, referred to as Coda's. These children are brought up by Deaf parents therefore Auslan is their primary language. Other users of Auslan include interpreters and family, friends and colleagues of Deaf people.
Fingerspelling is the manual representation of the letters of the alphabet. Fingerspelling is used for names of people, places and other words/concepts for which there is no unified sign. Some Deaf people have a preference for English-word-order using fingerspelling.