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Sign language in good heart but more can be done

Hon Tariana Turia
Minister for Disability Issues
4 October 2011
Media statement

Sign language in good heart but more can be done

Disability Issues Minister Hon Tariana Turia released the review of the New Zealand Sign Language Act 2006 today.

The New Zealand Sign Language Act established sign language as an official language of New Zealand.

“The passing of the Act was a landmark day for the Deaf community that sent an important signal about their place in our communities and whānau,” says Mrs Turia.

“Deaf people have the right to communicate using sign language in official situations, such as in courts. New Zealand Sign Language can also be learnt in school as a language choice. We should look to build the use of sign language into the fabric of all interactions, from public events to personal conversations.

“Recent events such as the Christchurch earthquake have shown how far we’ve come in accepting sign language as a regular part of communicating with the community. A sign language interpreter was alongside the televised emergency briefings by Mayor Bob Parker, which meant local Deaf people could know what was happening at the same time as everyone else.

Deaf Aotearoa has been doing excellent work to promote awareness and use of sign language, including its annual New Zealand Sign Language week during April/May.

“An exciting event during the 2011 week was the release of sign language translations of the national anthem, both the English and Māori versions. I congratulated Deaf Aotearoa on this achievement. You can also see the anthem performed in sign language at every All Blacks game during the Rugby World Cup,” says Mrs Turia.

“The review highlights that there is more work to be done to ensure that sign language becomes a regular feature of New Zealanders’ lives. In 2012, I will be considering how we can implement recommendations from the review to promote of sign language,” says Ms Turia.

The New Zealand Sign Language Act promotes and maintains the use of sign language by providing for its use in legal proceedings and sets out guiding principles for government departments to use sign language. A number of government agencies have already provided information in sign language. Recently, the Office for Disability Issues had the New Zealand Sign Language Act translated into sign language.

ENDS

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