Claire – Home and Away Bus Tour

Deaf community member Claire Newell has been a fan of the Aussie soap opera Home and Away ever since it began in 1988. When she discovered a company that took tours of the set and locations made famous by the long-running series, she knew it was a trip she had to make to fulfil a lifelong dream.  

Claire began organising the trip to Sydney from her home in Brisbane for herself and three friends, with flights, hotels and transfers all booked for June 2020. Unfortunately these plans, like many in 2020, were derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Unfazed, Claire set her sights on a new date of April 2021. While starting to rebook her trip, Claire decided to investigate the possibility of adding something to make her ”trip of a lifetime” even more special.  

“I thought to myself why not book an Auslan interpreter?” Claire remembers. “It would make our trip so much better.”  

Claire accessed an Auslan interpreter through her NDIS package, booking through Deaf Services and the Deaf Society’s Auslan interpreting service Auslan Connections.  

“I’ve always used Auslan Connections,” Claire says. “I come and see them and they look after me. This time was no exception!”  

Auslan Connections Team Leader Samantha Bevan worked with Claire to contact the tour guides to facilitate how an interpreter could work and make the required arrangements.  

With everything in place, Claire and her three friends made their way to Sydney, spending a few days sightseeing before their tour of Summer Bay, Home and Away’s fictional location situated on and around Sydney’s Palm Beach.  

The day before the tour, however, Samantha received a call saying the interpreter she had booked had to unavoidably cancel.  

“The last thing I wanted was for Claire and her friends to miss out,” says Samantha, “so I jumped on the phone to sort it out.”  

Samantha secured the services of Gold Coast based interpreter Michelle Ashley, and within an hour had her on a plane to Sydney.  

For Claire, it was a slightly nervous wait after learning of the booking issue, but any concerns were soon allayed when Samantha told her Michelle was on the way.  

“We weren’t sure she would arrive in time,” remembers Claire, “but then I saw Michelle and I ran towards her and gave her a big hug and we all thanked her.”  

The tour of Summer Bay was everything Claire had hoped for, including a very close interaction with her favourite actor.  

Claire and her friends were sitting at the front of the tour bus, waiting for the trip to begin, when actor Home and Away’s Colby Thorne (the actor Tim Franklin) climbed aboard.  

“Colby is my favourite,” admits Claire. “I was so excited. He was looking at us a lot of the time, perhaps because he’s never seen Deaf people or an Auslan interpreter before.”  

They were soon chatting together and Claire even offered him her protection from other characters in the show who had it out for him. 

“Colby was laughing a lot and thanked me for protecting him,” says Claire. “Did I mention he’s very tall and good looking?” 

After the tour group had got off the bus, Claire asked Colby if he would sign her tour pass. Colby decided to do this, and more … 

“He signed my pass, and also gave me a big tight hug. I didn’t see him hugging anyone else … Then he kissed me on the cheek!” 

Claire and her friends enjoyed the rest of the tour, including visiting famous filming locations such as Alf’s Bait Shop.  

The group returned to Brisbane the next day. They all agreed the trip was a great success, and that having an interpreter there made it even better. 

“This was the first time I’d used an interpreter for something like this, and it was so great,” says Claire. “Especially for the tour, when we had the bus driver, the tour guide and Colby talking, without the interpreter we would have had no idea what was going on.” 

Claire has already planned her next trip with friends in September: taking the Spirit of the Outback train to Longreach and Winton to explore outback Queensland and enjoy the 2021 Outback Festival before returning home by Qantas Link. 

If you have a fun idea which may need an interpreter, contact Auslan Connections and make it happen!