International Day of Sign Languages

The Government joins the New Zealand Deaf community in celebrating International Day of Sign Languages, the first day of the International Week of the Deaf each year.

“New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL)  is an official language of New Zealand, it is a taonga for us all,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

“The government is committed to maintaining and promoting the use of New Zealand sign language.

“Its use opens up social, cultural, educational and employment opportunities for Deaf people and affirms culture and identity.

“While celebrating the International Day of Sign Languages and our own New Zealand Sign Language I am also aware that there is still more to do and greater progress to be made.

“Today, let’s focus on celebrating sign languages internationally and in Aotearoa,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

Minister Sepuloni would also like to recognise the international contributions made by New Zealanders:

  • Mark Berry, who has been re-elected this year as President of the Youth Council of the World Federation of the Deaf.
  • Victoria Manning who was recently appointed to the Executive Board of the World Federation of the Deaf
  • Deaf Aotearoa which was acknowledged by the World Federation this year for its outstanding contributions over the last four years and for its achievements in promoting the human and linguistic rights of Deaf people and raising awareness of New Zealand Sign Language.

A  NZSL video of this statement can be downloaded at this link https://we.tl/t-xuoGFTLbsm

Editor’s Notes

  • New Zealand is one of the few countries to give its sign language official status (refer NZSL Act 2006).
  • The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) celebrates sign languages and Deaf culture in September each year https://wfdeaf.org/iwdeaf2019/
  • The WFD is an international non-profit and non-governmental organisation of 161 associations of Deaf people from 125 countries, with a focus on Deaf people who use sign language, and their family and friends. The WFD represents 70 million Deaf people worldwide, collectively using over 300 sign languages.
  • The New Zealand Deaf community is relatively small. In Census 2013, 20,235 people reported the ability to use New Zealand Sign Language, of whom it is estimated 4,000 are Deaf. Most Deaf people were born deaf or become deaf early in life. Those who identify with the Deaf community have a strong sense of identity as Deaf people and a shared common language in NZSL. Deaf culture has its own language, values, behavioural norms, and traditions.
  • Deaf Aotearoa is the largest organisation directly supporting Deaf people in New Zealand, including Māori Deaf. The Government supported Deaf Aotearoa’s bid in July to host the World Federation of the Deaf world Congress in 2023, although this was narrowly lost to South Korea.
  • Deaf Aotearoa received the Vittorio Ieralla Memorial Award at the World Federation of the Deaf General Assembly in Paris in July 2019 for its outstanding contribution to the World Federation of the Deaf over the last four years and for its achievements in promoting the human and linguistic rights of Deaf people and raising awareness of New Zealand Sign Language.