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Establishment of the Sign Language Board underway

Establishment of the New Zealand Sign Language Board underway

The establishment of the New Zealand Sign Language Board is underway with Minister for Disability Issues Tariana Turia announcing further details today.

The Government has committed $6 million over four years to promote and maintain New Zealand Sign Language in Budget 2014.

“New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) is an official language of New Zealand and is a core part of Deaf people’s identity and culture.

NZSL is used by approximately 20,000 New Zealanders as part of their everyday life and New Zealand Sign Language Week just past, was an important reminder of its value and place in New Zealand,” says Mrs Turia.

“I am pleased that the Government has supported the NZSL Experts Advisory Group recommendations which came out of the inquiry undertaken by the Human Rights Commission into NZSL in June 2013, and which we are now progressing through Budget 2014.

“One of the recommendations was to establish a NZSL advisory board that would advise and be responsible for measures to promote and maintain NZSL. The board will also develop a three year action plan to progress five initial priorities for NZSL - in education, in the home, regarding access to information and services, access for Deaf Māori and interpreter standards. The board will also oversee funding to promote and maintain NZSL. This includes $0.25 million for supporting the NZSL advisory board and $1.25 million for the NZSL Fund which will be allocated by the advisory board to support initiatives that promote and maintain NZSL.

“I would like to give my personal thanks to the members of the Experts Advisory Group for their hard work and dedication - Mark Berry, Bridget Ferguson, Josje Lelijveld, Victoria Manning, Rachel McKee, Sonia Pivac and Michael Wi. I would also like to acknowledge the late Patrick Wikiriwhi Thompson who passed away earlier this year. Patrick was a dedicated advocate for Deaf Māori and had worked for the Deaf Māori community for more than twenty years as an educator and social worker. He was also a valuable member of the Experts Advisory Group,” says Mrs Turia.

The NZSL Advisory Board would have up to 10 members and represent the diversity of the NZSL users. A minimum of six members would be Deaf, two members would be Deaf Māori, one member would be a Deaf person of Pacific background, and one member would be a representative from the Disabled People’s Organisation for the Deaf community (Deaf Aotearoa New Zealand). Membership will also reflect the perspectives of youth, families and the elderly.

The NZSL Advisory Board will be responsible for:
- leading the promotion and maintenance of NZSL, providing a national role and focal point of reference and support, and an expert voice on NZSL
- advising on measures to give effect to NZSL as an official language, including on matters relating to the Act and possible regulation of the NZSL workforce through interpreting standards
- providing centralised, expert, high level and systematic advice on NZSL across government departments including developing an action plan and providing advice on the NZSL priorities
- monitoring and reporting on key government activity towards the action plan, priority initiatives, and outcomes for deaf people and NZSL users
- recommending how the NZSL Fund is allocated for projects with the specific purpose of promoting and maintaining NZSL

The advisory board will report directly to the Minister on issues relating to the promotion and maintenance of NZSL. The Office for Disability Issues will be seeking nominations for the advisory board late in the year and appointments for the NZSL Advisory Board will be made by the Minister in December 2014.


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