New Zealand’s best and brightest have been recognised for their hard work in fighting for the rights, education, and access for the Deaf community in this year’s annual NZSL Awards.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the annual awards ceremony is taking on a more personal flavour in 2020 with each recipient being presented with their award in their home town, instead of at a gala ceremony in Wellington as has been the case for many years.

Awards span New Zealand wide, with most regions around the country having a key figure or service in the Deaf community recognised for their ground-breaking, often thankless work to build a more equitable society for Deaf people.

In a year like no other, with uncertainty gripping the globe due to the ongoing health pandemic, access to important information has never been more important. As such, perhaps the most fitting award in 2020 goes to the team of NZSL interpreters on screen during the crucial COVID-19 announcements and updates throughout the year.

These six interpreters are recognised for their extraordinary skills and performance under high levels of stress to help ensure Deaf New Zealanders had access to live Covid-19 updates and are fitting recipients of the annual Interpreter of the Year Award.

The second major award goes to Kordia TV who have been voted as winners of the coveted NZSL Accessible Service Award, one of the biggest biennial awards, that acknowledges a service provider that provides exceptional service to those accessing a service through NZSL.

Building on a successful partnership with TVNZ, Kordia TV worked with Deaf Aotearoa and iSign to provide full screen NZSL of major COVID-19 updates and media briefings, resulting in feedback from the Deaf community signalling an enormous improvement to important information in real time during the ongoing health pandemic.

That success will be built upon again this week with Kordia TV providing live NZSL translation of the First Leaders Debate, exclusively on Freeview Channel 200 and TVNZ OnDemand.

The NZSL Employer Award goes to Wellington based brewery Garage Project who have again produced a special NZSL Week beer, named Talk to the Hand, that promotes the use of NZSL across New Zealand and for their collaboration with a Deaf employee who led the design of the artwork on the beer can label.

Long-time advocate and Deaf person Lee Bullivant has been recognised for his long-standing leadership and initiative in the Hawkes Bay, capturing the NZSL in the Community Award for his positive impact across several community groups and health organisations.

The NZSL Champion Award has been awarded to the Deaf Wellbeing Society for their outstanding commitment to empowering and enriching the lives of Deaf people through education and to reduce isolation through social contact.

Powerful young leader Eric Matthews has been rewarded for his contributions for the Māori Deaf Community. The 27-year old’s initiatives and inspiration for Māori Deaf youth in the wider Auckland region were key reasons for Eric winning this year’s Māori Champion award.

Jackie Davidson has been awarded for her many years of NZSL teaching in the Manawatu region, including her training of people who’ve gone on to become fully qualified NZSL interpreters.

Davidson is joined on the education front by St Kilda Kindergarten who’ve won the Early Childhood Award for their commitment to supporting their staff to learn NZSL to ensure an inclusive NZSL environment for Deaf children.

Deaf Aotearoa CEO Lachlan Keating says that the awards gives the chance for the Deaf community to recognise the very best champions of NZSL.

“The NZSL Awards are an opportunity to recognise businesses, organisations, schools and individuals who are championing NZSL in their own way and going the extra mile to ensure Deaf people can access the information and services they want”, Keating said.

“It’s also really pleasing to see new initiatives from organisations and businesses that have not previously engaged with the Deaf community be rewarded for their effort.”

Further recipients of NZSL Awards in 2020:

NZSL In Schools: Freyberg High School
Acknowledging their long term commitment to including NZSL in the curriculum from Year 9 to Year 13.

NZSL in the Media: Merge
Acknowledging their effectiveness in promoting NZSL in the media, including both their own media platforms and mainstream media platforms.

Youth Champion: Benazir Black
Acknowledging Benazir personal commitment and passion supporting the Deaf youth in Christchurch and nationally for many years.

NZSL in Arts: Monari Falepeau
Acknowledging Monari’s skills in a wide range of arts and her initiative in sharing her skills with the NZSL community.

NZSL in Government Agencies: National Emergency Management Agency
Acknowledging their leadership and commitment to ensuring the Deaf community has access to information in NZSL during times of national emergency and crisis.

No awards were made in the NZSL in Health, or NZSL in Sport categories this year.

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