Betty Kneal Cassera was the eldest of three children of hearing parents. She grew up in Crows Nest in Sydney and attended the NSW Institute at Darlington, along with her youngest brother, Barry. Betty went on to marry Peter Donald Bonser, believed to be Australia’s first Deaf Surf Life Saver in North Sydney and together they had four sons, Peter, Angus, Matthew and Brett who, sadly, died as an infant. Peter, Angus and Matthew are all active in the Deaf Community as interpreters.
For 14 years, Betty worked as a part time lecturer at the University of Western Sydney teaching sign language to trainee Teachers of the Deaf. She also worked as a Teacher’s Aide at the Alice Betteridge School at the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) where along with her work as an Aide, she taught Sign Language to the school’s staff.
In the early 1980s, Betty became involved with the Concerned Deaf Group which lobbied for better education for deaf children. One of the most significant outcomes of the group’s efforts was to have Auslan recognised as a community language in the Federal government’s National Language Policy.
From 1987 to 1991, Betty worked as a Recreation & Support Worker with the Aged Care Hostel (Lonsdale House) at the Deaf Society of NSW in Stanmore before returning to RIDBC in 1991 as a Bilingual Liaison Officer. At RIDBC, she became well known for her work in the establishment of the Roberta Reid Bilingual Pre-School. Betty was subsequently involved in the founding of the Thomas Pattison School, the first Auslan/English bilingual school in NSW.
Betty’s involvement in the Deaf Community also extended to the Deaf Christian Fellowship where for many years she helped with the translation of Bible readings into Auslan for the Bible Society of Australia.
In retirement, Betty and her husband, Peter Bonser Sr, moved to the Coolangatta/Tweed area of NSW. Peter died there in 2012 at the age of 81. Betty Bonser remains active as a retiree and still teaches a small local Auslan class each week.
Personal information from Betty and Peter Bonser