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James fights fires in Western Australia’s Goldfields, though he can’t hear a thing

Fighting fires is dangerous work, but the risk is even greater for James Tucker, who was born deaf.
The Indigenous ranger-turned-firefighter has discovered an innovative way of working, despite his disability.
James works with the Parks and Wildlife team in the Eastern Goldfields region of Western Australia, protecting the land of Kalgoorlie from fires, 595 kilometres east-northeast of Perth.

“I was born in Kalgoorlie, born with a hearing disability, and found out when I was two or three years old,” he told SBS News.

Following the National Week of Deaf People between 18-24 September, Australians have been encouraged to spread awareness about deaf communities and recognise their achievements.
Government data released in 2022 shows more than two in five Indigenous Australians aged seven and over presented with hearing loss.

The data also suggests hearing loss among Indigenous children is higher in remote communities than in major cities.

For James, the Goldfields Parks and Wildlife Service team has devised a specific and tailored communication system over the years.
Operations Officer of Fire Management Chris Curtis says it makes his job accessible to his needs.
“When James is out at a fire with us, he has a special radio. That radio vibrates so when we need to talk with him or communicate with him, we hit that vibrating function,” he told SBS News.
“We’ve also got cards. We’ve got a green card and a red card. The green card basically means pack up … we finished doing whatever we were doing here.

“The red card is emergency, if we’re about to be overrun, for instance, by fire.”

Colleagues say they are inspired by the dedication James Tucker brings to his role as an Indigenous ranger and firefighter. Credit: WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions

James has earned the respect and admiration of his colleagues for his commitment and contribution.

After several years in the job, his fire management team says his perseverance has become a source of inspiration.
“He’s one of them guys who is really committed, very smart,” Assistant Operations Officer with the Department Wyvern Dimer told SBS News.

“Sometimes, I don’t even think he thinks he’s deaf. He’s just straight in. He’s a happy bloke. Being deaf and having a hearing problem, it doesn’t stop him. Nothing’s too hard for him really. If he can give it a go, he’ll give it a go.”

Showing the way for a career on country

James has become more than just a colleague, Curtis added.

“Working with James, it’s been amazing. It’s very inspiring to see someone with a disability, with a hearing impairment, and him not letting it get him down. The work ethic is amazing. And it’s really great to work with him and to call him a colleague, but also a friend.”

But James isn’t just inspiring those he works with.
Joint Management Coordinator Peter Batt says he’s an inspiration for younger Indigenous children in Kalgoorlie.
“I think he shows the way for local Aboriginal people in that there’s a career for local people in the department working out on country, doing really good work.
“I’ve heard mentioned a number of times that he’s just so patient. He understands that his communication is not great, but he just perseveres. He doesn’t get frustrated and he’ll try explaining again or eventually he’ll write it down if he needs to, just to get his point across.
“He loves the variety of the work. He does a great job. He takes a lot of pride in the work that he does.”
For James, he says it’s a love of the work that keeps him coming back.

“I love fighting bushfires and working with my team around Kalgoorlie.”

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/james-fights-fires-in-western-australias-goldfields-though-he-cant-hear-a-thing/06nb0cggj James fights fires in Western Australia’s Goldfields, though he can’t hear a thing

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