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New Zealand Sign Language Week 2008

Published: 5:12PM Friday May 02, 2008

On Breakfast this week you can see a Tamati's Monday and Friday morning weather rundowns accompanied by someone translating in sign language.

In 2008, Deaf people in New Zealand celebrate the right to express themselves equally within society. This freedom of expression follows a significant milestone: on the April 6 2006, the New Zealand Sign Language Bill was passed in Parliament which gave NZSL the status of an Official Language of New Zealand along with English and Maori.  

The 2006 Census reports 24,090 people in New Zealand use NZSL to communicate. And many more combine elements of New Zealand Sign Language with a range of communications techniques (such as lip-reading and amplification via hearing aids or cochlear implants).

Yet for most of last century, deaf children were not allowed to use sign language in school. In fact, they were punished for using it. Instead, these children were taught to develop spoken language and as a result many failed at their school work, and grew up with little or no education at all.

In the 1990's, NZSL finally became an acknowledged part of Deaf education.  And last year, the Ministry of Education announced NZSL would become part of the New Zealand School curriculum.

NZSL Week 2008 will be launched in Parliament on Monday 5 May.  The New Zealand National Anthem will be performed in all three of New Zealand's official languages for the first time in a public forum.  This is a really significant moment as it demonstrates the equality of all the languages.   The Anthem will be performed in English, Maori and NZSL, by signed singers alongside students from the New Zealand School of Music.

Other events throughout the week:

  • The first NZSL Deaf Art Auction.

  • An educational programme takes place in local schools.

  • NZSL Teachers go into the community to teach a series of 45-minute introductory sessions to the public.
  • Winners of the inaugural NZSL Awards to NZSL-friendly businesses will be announced at a Gala dinner in Auckland.

For more information see

And for information on TVNZ's television captioning service

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