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Speech to launch Children's Visual Communications Dictionary

Hon Tariana Turia
Minister for Disability Issues

Speech to launch Children's Visual Communications Dictionary

Wednesday 2 May 2012; 6.15pm
Monday 30 April 2012, 6pm
Grand Hall, Parliament Buildings, Wellington

Tena koutou katoa,

Nga mihi ki a koutou kua tae mai ki tenei, te whare paremata ki te hapai, aa ki te whakanui i tenei o nga kaupapa.

Nau mai, nau mai, nau mai.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you here to Parliament, and to be a part of the launch of the children’s visual communications dictionary.

This dictionary is very special. Not only will it act as one of the first tri-lingual dictionaries that represent the three official languages of Aotearoa, it also goes a long way towards enhancing the ways that we communicate with every member of our society, especially our most precious tamariki.

I imagine if there is one key unifying theme that is shared by New Zealanders on the street and politicians in this House, it is that we need to do better by our children.

In fact, if there is one mission in life I could promote it would be to ensure that every year, every week, and every day, should be dedicated to remembering the needs of our tamariki.

I pondered on this today, when I was told of the good work that Voice Thru Your Hands - the organisation that has brought us together tonight, and the organisation behind this dictionary.

Their organisational vision, is that every child, whether they are deaf, have a hearing impairment, or are non-verbal, are given the chance to have a voice.

It is a wonderful and moving statement that reminds us of the rights of our children, and the need for us all to be inclusive, to be caring, and to reach out to every member of our community.

Of course, we are also in the midst of celebrating New Zealand Sign Language Week, and it is a fitting time to remind all of us, that every day is a day that we can be supporting our children, especially those who communicate in sign language.

One of the things that really pulls on my heart strings, is to think about the sense of isolation that often comes with hearing impairment. I think about our children who have overcome the barriers that come with hearing impairments and have armed themselves with the skill to communicate in sign. And then I think about the frustration that must come with the fact that very few other people in our society can hear what is being communicated, or indeed through sign, talk back to our kids.

So I want to thank you Ally Attwell, and Voice Thru Our Hands for the courage, for the vision, and of course the momentum to ensure that every single child in Aotearoa has a voice.

This dictionary, is yet another step along the way to supporting our children. It is a resource that every early childhood centre, and every school in New Zealand should have. If there is anything that we should be reminded of this week, it is that every citizen of Aotearoa, everyday, has a role to play in supporting the wellbeing of our whanau, and community around us.

I have no doubt that as parents, we would do anything, learn anything, to communicate with our children.

In fact, I think back to when I had my children – and I know that each and every parent will share this memory with me – of communicating with my babies without the use of words. The bond between a parent and a child is such that for a brief moment in time, every parent can communicate and interact without words, and sometimes without sound. It is one of the most precious times in our lives, when we form a bond like no other.

It seems to me that sign language is simply another form of communication, and yet it is marginalised language, and alongside it, and without intent of course, we can marginalise those who rely on this language to reach out, build relationships, and of course speak.

Yet of course, if it were indeed our own children who were deaf, or hearing impaired – I am sure that each and every one of us would be fluent today.

So I want to celebrate the achievement that is this wonderful Children’s Visual Communication Dictionary. A tri-lingual picture dictionary for our children, not only removes some of the barriers that our children may have at school, or with peers, it is an opportunity for us adults, to really learn something for the benefit of our wider community.

I am reminded of the early days of the kohanga reo movement (which of course is our Maori total immersion early childhood education language nests) where very few parents knew how to speak Maori. In fact, very few Maori knew how to speak in Maori, and the whole drive behind kohanga reo, was to revitalise our language.

It was through our children, who were immersed in te reo, that many of the adults at the time learnt to speak in Maori. The revitalisation process started with our babies, and slowly filtered through the wider whanau.

So it is a wonderful power indeed that our children have, and we should treasure that, and support them in their re-education of us adults.

On that note, I really want to say to Ally, that your daughter Tarryn who inspired you to establish Voice Thru Your Hands, has actually inspired a whole group of New Zealanders. I congratulate you and your daughter for your wonderful work.

There is a Maori saying ‘ehara taku toa I te toa takitahi, engari he toa takimano’ – my victory is not mine alone, but belongs to many – and this also rings true in the case of the Children’s Visual Communication Dictionary.

The dictionary has been made possible through the generosity of the many people and organisations who have given their time and skills over the past two years to make it happen including the deaf community, Paul Buzzard a native signer from Van Asch Deaf Education Centre in Christchurch, and the Maori community, especially He Kupenga Hao i te Reo from Palmerston North, who provided the official translations in Maori.

The dictionary is an exciting example of how all of our official languages can work in harmony to be relevant and accessible to all New Zealanders. And I thank you all for inviting me, and also for the contribution you have made to advancing the rights of children, and our hearing impaired community.

Tena koutou katoa.


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