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Deaf Youth Set Sail on a Decade of Official Language Status

Deaf Youth Set Sail on a Decade of Official Language Status

Deaf Aotearoa are celebrating 10 years of New Zealand Sign Language’s (NZSL) official language status, with the first all-Deaf voyage on the Spirit of New Zealand.

This week marks 10 years since the third reading of the New Zealand Sign Language Bill, which came into effect on April 6th, 2006, making NZSL an official language of New Zealand. Marking the anniversary, Deaf Aotearoa are focused on the future of NZSL, in the hands of young Deaf New Zealanders.

The Spirit of New Zealand set sail from Auckland on Thursday for a five-day voyage, carrying a crew of 19 Deaf youth, three Deaf Aotearoa Youth Interns and four Deaf Aotearoa staff members from all over New Zealand, along with Deaf Aotearoa Youth Services Team Leader Jake LaBerge says it’s hugely important for Deaf youth to help sustain a “Ensuring the Deaf community is valued and can grow, develop and thrive is among our top priorities,” says Jake.

“Giving young Deaf people access to opportunities like this Spirit of New Zealand voyage helps build a sense of identity and worth, both in individuals and the Deaf community.”

The voyage is supported by a generous grant from Nessbank Trust.

Information about the NZSL Act 2006 can be found in a media release from Hon Nicky Wagner the Minister for Disability Issues, on the Beehive’s website.  

Deaf Aotearoa are holding the 10th annual NZSL Week May 9th - 15th, which celebrates the contribution and colour NZSL brings to Kiwis, with classes, events, activities and more happening around the country.

For more information, visit


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