The Government has committed to strengthening the NZ Sign Language Act to support Deaf leadership and promote greater use of NZSL, Minister for Disability Issues, Priyanca Radhakrishnan, announced today.
This week (8 – 14 May 2022) is New Zealand Sign Language Week (NZSL), a nationwide celebration of NZSL as an official language of New Zealand.
“NZSL Week 2023 is about supporting NZSL to thrive, breaking down barriers and promoting it as a language for everyone,” Minister Radhakrishnan said.
“New Zealand is already recognised as a world leader for our commitment to maintaining and furthering the use of sign language.
“While NZSL is now more recognised and accepted by society, a decreasing percentage of the deaf population are learning and using the language. This means we need to keep working hard on protection and promotion, with a strong partnership between the Deaf community and the Government. One of the ways we will do this is by amending the NZSL Act,” she said.
The changes include strengthening the role of the NZSL Board and recognising the identity and culture of Turi Māori (Māori Deaf) in their work alongside government agencies.
A core function of the board under the proposed changes will be to monitor and report on government agencies’ actions to promote and protect NZ Sign Language.
“The Deaf community welcomed the Deaf-led approach to consultation and that NZSL was the primary language of engagement,” the Minister said.
“We heard then how important it was to strengthen the strategic leadership of Deaf people on matters related to NZSL. These changes are a further commitment to that.”
She said the NZSL Board already played a vital role investing in community-led initiatives which help the language to thrive.
“NZSL Week, the NZSL Dictionary, and NZSL youth events are successful existing examples of promotion of the language.”
“Since the NZSL Act first came into law in 2006, New Zealand has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, established the NZSL Board, launched the NZSL Strategy 2018 – 2023, and established Whaikaha – Ministry of Disabled People.
“We have come a long way with sign language, and seeing it reflected in everyday life, however we know there’s further work to do,” Ms Radhakrishnan said.