Annual Report 2021-2022

President’s Report

Kia ora Koutou

I am so pleased to be sharing Deaf Aotearoa’s Annual Report with you, as I am very proud of the success the boards and staff have had over the past year.

I would like to acknowledge the wonderful support the Executive Board has provided me with and for the work they have been doing to ensure Deaf Aotearoa can provide access for the Deaf community to events, information and opportunities.

I would like to thank former board members Oliver Ferguson, Celia King, Jake LaBerge, Sonia Pivac and Meghan Coppage who have also served during the past three years.

The Executive Board appointed Theresa Cooper as the new chairperson of the DAHL Board earlier this year and we would like to thank her and the DAHL Board for their strong management of the finance, legal, and health and safety responsibilities of Deaf Aotearoa. It’s important that we continue to support our staff so they can deliver high standard services to the Deaf community.

Thank you to the NZSL Board for their work in promoting and strengthening NZSL. It has been good to see the increased focus on Māori Deaf and for the community to learn more about Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Te Ao Māori.

It is also pleasing to see the establishment of the Māori Health Authority which will help to improve the lives of Māori Deaf. I’m really pleased to have Emmie Bensley, a strong Wahine Turi Māori join the Executive Board.

I am very grateful for the warm welcome from many people I meet at Deaf community events including the Wellington Deaf Society, Southland Deaf Community 65th Anniversary and the 100th Anniversary celebration of the Deaf Society of Canterbury. Thank you to all the committees and people who keep these organisations running smoothly. I was honoured to present the Māori Champion Award to Tina Brightwell and the NZSL in Schools Award at the Hawke’s Bay Deaf Club in May this year. NZSL Week is a really important time to celebrate the achievements of Deaf people and others who support NZSL.

Deaf Aotearoa continues to have a strong presence on a global level, with Victoria Manning on the WFD Board, and our board members and staff attending the WFD Conference online this year.

We are nearing the completion of the Deaf Way Review and we are looking forward to implementing improvements and changes once we have the final
report. The key findings from the report will be shared with the Deaf community.

I would like to thank Lachlan and his staff for all the hard work that they do. I know he and the staff are very passionate about their work.

I look forward to continuing to lead our organisation. We can all be proud of our achievements.

Ngā mihi
Joanne Klaver

Youth Board Update

We have been focusing on team building and planning this year. We are youth from all over Aotearoa New Zealand, volunteering our time to make sure the youth perspective is considered in the work the Executive Board does. This year we have held our meetings online as well as one face to face meeting in Wellington.

We have attended meetings with the Executive Board and represented Deaf Aotearoa at WFDYS meetings. We are excited to see the response to our calls for expressions of interest to represent NZ at the next WFDYS Camp in 2023.

One of the ways we want to connect with youth is via gatherings around the country ‒ when we hold our face to face meetings. We also have Instagram and Facebook pages ‒ please give us a like and DM us! We want to see Deaf and hard of hearing youth coming together, supporting one another and developing a strong identity and connection with the Deaf community.

Zoe, Henare, Cha’nel, Kyle and Meghan.

Deaf Aotearoa Holdings Ltd Chairperson’s Report

It has been one year since I started my position as a Director of Deaf Aotearoa Holdings Limited (DAHL), to replace David McKee who stepped down at the last AGM in November 2021. I would like to say a special thank you to David for his support at the beginning to ensure I had a good start on the Board. Earlier this year, the Executive Board invited me to become the Chairperson which I accepted. I am grateful for all the support I have received from the DAHL Board, Executive Board, and Management team. We saw how hard-working the Deaf Aotearoa team is, delivering their services to service users and Deaf community through another challenging year navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. The team has shown their commitment and motivation to find ways to grow and improve their services.

Deaf Aotearoa has a strong collaboration with key stakeholders such as the Government, and we have been very fortunate to receive extra funding for First Signs from the Ministry of Education. We would like to acknowledge everyone involved in the organisation and their work so far. It is a celebration that Deaf Aotearoa was recognised in Diversity Works NZ Awards 2022; a winner for Diverse Talent Award and also a finalist for Impact Award. Congratulations to all!

The DAHL Board looks after the business side of Deaf Aotearoa, monitoring and safeguarding the financial viability and sustainability of the organisation.

Deaf Aotearoa CEO, Lachlan Keating, reports to DAHL on the organisation’s progress in many areas; services delivery, projects progresses, fundraising and finance, health and safety, and policies. This ensures that we are informed and we focus on the long term stability of the organisation and also to continue to make improvements to maintain its relevance to our society. I would like to acknowledge other directors on the DAHL Board; Michael Allen, Gail Stevens, Kevin O’Neill, and two representatives from the Executive Board; Craig Findsen and Joanne Klaver, for sharing their knowledge and time they spend overseeing DAHL. We farewelled Michael Allen who resigned from DAHL Board in late June to free up his time to focus on his family. It was wonderful to have Michael on DAHL as his expertise and support was highly valued by us. In the 2021/22 financial year, Deaf Aotearoa has returned an operating surplus of $431,549.

Thank you to Chief Executive, Lachlan Keating, for the high standard of management and leadership of this organisation, its services and staff. We would like to acknowledge and congratulate his ten year anniversary as a CEO of Deaf Aotearoa. DAHL reports to the Executive Board, who leads the organisation’s strategy and performance. I would like to thank the Executive Board; Joanne Klaver, Anton Sammons, Craig Findsen, Jasmin Taylor and recently co-opted, Emmie Bensley, for their commitment to Deaf Aotearoa. These people have put in many hours contributing to support DAHL
to improve and grow from a strategic and advocacy perspective. We look forward to another constructive year to continue to improve the organisation’s advocacy and services, and to maintain the financial viability and sustainability of the Deaf Aotearoa.

WFD Board Member: Victoria Manning

The Deaf Aotearoa board nominated Victoria Manning to the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) Board in 2019. Victoria was successfully voted onto the WFD Board at the 2019 General Assembly and is serving a four year term, 2019 – 2023. The new WFD Board held their first Board meeting in-person in Georgia in November 2019, and due to the COVID-19 pandemic subsequent Board meetings were held via Zoom. Between September 2021 and September 2022 there were five WFD Board meetings. The 125th Board meeting was on Zoom in September 2021. The 126th Board meeting was a hybrid meeting, on Zoom and in-person for those who were able to travel, in the United Arab Emerites in November 2021. The 127th Board
meeting was entirely on Zoom in January 2022 and the 128th Board meeting was another hybrid meeting both on Zoom and in-person for those who were able to travel, in Thailand, Bangkok.

The 129th Board meeting in September 2022 in Nambia was the first in-person board meeting that Victoria could attend since the New Zealand Government’s COVID-19 travel restrictions began. Victoria says, “The Board meeting in Namibia was only my second in-person WFD board meeting since being elected to the board in 2019. Being in-person is very different to being on Zoom. I really enjoyed being in-person again, engaging more in the conversations and getting to know my fellow board members better.

This board meeting in Namibia included four days working our way through the Board meeting agenda; one day providing a workshop to the Namibia Deaf community and launching the International Week of the Deaf with Namibian Government Ministers and the Namibian Deaf community. We also visited a Deaf school in the Namibian capital, Windhoek, where the Deaf children were highly energised and happy to meet with us.

Between mid-2021 and September 2022, Board meetings have focused on increasing our WFD financial and human resource capacity supporting Deaf Ukrainians developing position papers developing a tool kit for the recognition of sign language rights in Global South countries providing training to Ordinary Member national deaf association on the recognition of sign languages and sign language rights running international webinars on various topics increasing the WFD’s media presence.

The WFD President, Vice President, Executive Director, other board members and staff have also represented Deaf issues at UN events and meetings, including at the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities annual Conference of States Parties. In the time period mid-2021 to September 2022, the WFD released a number of position statements including: Position Statement on Access to National Sign Languages as a Health Need, April 2022. Guidelines for the protection and safety of deaf people in armed conflicts, March Statement on the right of deaf people to equal treatment in the context of the Global Covid-19
pandemic, January 2022 Position Statement on Educational Rights for Deaf Learners During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond.

Chief Executive’s Report

Tēnā koutou katoa

In the year just past, Deaf Aotearoa has enjoyed a period of steady growth and development. As always, the positive period of growth and development follows a great deal of hard work. Our people at all levels from governance to frontline staff have shown great commitment and endurance in achieving what we have.

We were very pleased to receive a significant funding increase from the Ministry of Education for our First Signs service, with an additional $2.8 million over the next four years. This increased funding will see us provide an introduction to NZSL and the Deaf community to at least an additional 100 families with Deaf children. First Signs plays a critical role in language acquisition and the social development of Deaf children, and gives confidence and support to their whanau that their Deaf child will grow up to be a successful Deaf adult.

Since First Signs was established in 2014, our staff who work in the service have grown and become Deaf leaders in their own right. In particular, Natasha Cloete and Lara Draper have become recognised globally for their work with the Deaf Leadership International Alliance. Both Natasha and Lara took part in the International Deaf Leadership programme at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester University led by former World Federation of the Deaf president Colin Allen.

Elsewhere within Deaf Aotearoa, our services continue to develop. With the establishment of two new general manager roles, for Children & Youth (Bridget Ferguson) and Adults & Seniors (Lara Draper), we can now give greater focus to Deaf people of all ages. Funding for services for people under 16 and over 65 has been traditionally difficult to access, and we are now looking to establish sustainable funding streams from outside the traditional sources.

The Covid pandemic has highlighted the need for health information to be available in NZSL. Our translation service has expanded significantly over the past three years, to the point that we have now established a dedicated team leader role to help us fully develop this important service. It is pleasing to see development across the sector in this area and we are excited to be part of this period of strong growth.

Internally, we have worked hard to ensure our staff are well supported. We engaged Strategic Pay to review salaries and benefits for all roles and have made significant progress in this area. Our staff turnover remains low, and staff who have previously worked for Deaf Aotearoa have returned after periods with other organisations. Overall, the quality and quantity of candidates applying for roles has been the strongest I have witnessed in the past 15 years.

Several staff have now been with us for long periods. Tania Stuart from our New Plymouth office celebrated her 25-year anniversary in July this year. Tania is totally committed to her local community, and we are blessed to have her as part of the team. We are truly grateful for Tania’s loyalty, wisdom and passion. Joanne Key has been with Deaf Aotearoa for over 21 years, and we were very pleased to see Joanne step up into the role of Finance Manager earlier this year. Joanne manages our accounts diligently and we are lucky to have such a committed staff member work with us for so long.

The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ concluding observations included several specific references to Deaf people and NZSL. We are confident that the Government will now commit to action on several issues which remain outstanding after many years of slow progress.

Deaf Aotearoa was founded initially to advocate for better access and services for Deaf people. Over time, the expectations from the Deaf community have grown in terms of the issues that are important and need to be brought to the attention of the Government.

Deaf Aotearoa’s advocacy has, in the past, been limited by the resources available. With little government funding available for advocacy, the Executive Board has committed to increasing our advocacy work, and directed that a dedicated advocacy role be established. We were really excited to be able to appoint Rachel Hargreaves to the role of Senior Policy & Advocacy Officer, after over 20 years working in a wide range of government policy roles across several different ministries. While her work has recently been focussed on the Accessibility for New Zealanders Bill and the review of the NZSL Act, Rachel’s work will cover a wide range of topics where we know Deaf people’s input is needed.

Deaf Aotearoa’s two boards, the Executive Board and the Deaf Aotearoa Holdings Board, govern the organisation with passion, diligence and wisdom. They work many hours providing advice, evaluating progress, offering support and solutions and ensuring Deaf Aotearoa remains sustainable. I am grateful for the ongoing support from our boards and I look forward to working with the newly elected Executive Board over the next three years.

It’s been a real thrill to see NZSL, and sign language more broadly, showcased on the global stage recently, through Deaf Aotearoa’s ongoing relationships with Netball New Zealand and New Zealand Rugby. Having the anthems of visiting national sporting teams signed provides access for Deaf people both here and overseas, and further highlights our country’s leadership in the area of sign language promotion. The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup is another opportunity to ensure Deaf people have access to important events and we look forward to working with the tournament organisers to achieve this.

The approaching years, with the establishment of Whaikaha – Ministry of Disabled People and the eventual national rollout of Enabling Good Lives, will bring about new challenges and opportunities for Deaf Aotearoa and we will need to be agile and responsive to the evolving expectations of the Deaf community and other stakeholders. I look forward to leading Deaf Aotearoa on its ongoing journey of development, growth and success.

Lachlan Keating
Chief Executive

Senior Policy & Advocacy Officer: Rachel Hargreaves

Rachel joined Deaf Aotearoa at the beginning of July 2022. Rachel brings over twenty years of experience working for central government – most recently working with the Establishment Unit to set up the new Ministry of Disabled People, and before that, working with MSD policy and ODI as well as the NZSL Board. At ODI Rachel reviewed government policy to ensure that a disability perspective was included, and for the NZSL Board she prepared the briefing asking the Minister for Disability Issues to review the New Zealand Sign Language Act, which the Minister did agree to. Rachel has joined Deaf Aotearoa at a busy time with several legislative changes coming up that affect the lives of Deaf people, eg the Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media Bill, the Accessibility for New Zealanders Bill, and upcoming changes to the New Zealand Sign Language Act.

Rachel is also involved in some key advocacy projects, such as improving lift safety for Deaf people (in partnership with Norman, Disney and Young – a company who provide engineering solutions to ‘make spaces work’), and ensuring that Deaf cultural competency is included in the Ministry of Justice’s Family Violence and Sexual Violence Response Training Package. Rachel wants to influence government Policy so that the needs and views of the Deaf community are considered as a matter of course and not as an after thought or not at all. Rachel is a keen user and supporter of NZSL and has been learning NZSL at Victoria University and at other community classes since 2019. Rachel’s work helps Deaf Aotearoa improve outcomes for Deaf New Zealanders by ensuring Deaf people’s views are heard and understood by the government and other key stakeholders.

Children & Youth

The Children & Youth service continues to grow and develop! Under the leadership of General Manager Bridget and Team Leader Natasha – the team has further developed the First Signs service and developed closer relationships with families of school aged children and Deaf youth. Deaf Aotearoa continues to be a contributing member of the Deaf Leadership international Alliance (DLIA) and over the past year we have developed a tip sheet for families about ‘How to collaborate with Deaf adults in Early Intervention’ as well as tips for ‘Visual strategies’. These tips are available in a variety of languages including NZSL and English. The number of families in our First Signs service is growing following the funding increase from the Ministry of Education. We have undertaken a recruitment drive to increase the number of Facilitators in our team. We have also increased the number of young people we are supporting. This involved strengthening our collaboration with the transition students at Ko Taku Reo Deaf Education NZ.

We appreciate the support we get from families in our service who are willing to share their story’s with to others. NZSL Week was a success again as we brought families together at local events – where NZSL was celebrated. It is wonderful to have the input from wider family members, and to see the growth of awareness and NZSL in the local communities.

During International Week of the Deaf (IWD) 2022, we hosted events throughout NZ for families to come together and celebrate IWD and International Day of Sign Languages. Team leader Natasha attended the Family Centred Early Intervention congress in Austria and presented at the pre-conference. We have also contributed to the rewrite of the International consensus statement on best practice in early intervention with families with Deaf/hard of hearing children. We are looking forward to another year of growth with Children, Youth and their whanau, at the centre of our work.

Adults & Seniors

Deaf Aotearoa services works from a whole-of-life approach. Our Adults & Seniors service is person-centric and supports a Deaf individual’s goals and aspirations while also supporting the wider Deaf community in general.

The Adults & Seniors service is provided to the community by our team of Facilitators: Adults & Seniors. The team are throughout the country and this enables Deaf people to receive the same support wherever they live.

Deaf people enter our Adults & Seniors service and engage with our Pathway Assessors. They discuss what the priority areas are of the individuals and consider a path to achieve the goals determined by the service user. Following this the Facilitators will work with individuals and their families to access services that suit them. Often these are in the areas of housing, benefits, finances, employment and health. Another aspect of our Adults & Seniors service is assisting Deaf and Hard of Hearing people to obtain hearing assistive equipment.

Another aspect of the Adults & Seniors service is collaborating with organisations to build relationships and get the best outcomes for the Deaf community and the individuals we work with.

Our facilitators engage with employers to help them to understand more about employing Deaf people, including information about equipment, Deaf Culture, communication and funding for NZSL interpreters in the workplace.

Facilitators can be contacted via video calls, emails, text or by visiting our offices around the country. The team can support individuals with document translation, booking an interpreter, connecting with social and health services, as well as access to technology.

The 8223 free text service that we implemented this year has enabled the Deaf community to get in touch with the team when they want to access services. This has been well received.

Once we returned to the offices following COVID-19 conditions, we were able to work with local communities to re-establish 5 outreach centres, these are in Whakatane, Opotoki, Levin, Gisborne, and Wairoa. There are plans to extend the outreach services to Waihi, Paeroa, Rotorua and Matamata in early 2023. The team have worked with the communities in Whangarei, Dargaville and Gisborne to establish community gatherings and enable people to reconnect after a difficult period through COVID-19.

Adult Community Education

We continue to provide community education courses throughout Aotearoa. Courses are arranged to meet the local needs of the Deaf community, as well as online courses that are available to Deaf throughout the country. Adult community education is an opportunity for us to gather and learn in NZSL in a culturally appropriate setting. COVID settings meant that we could not carry out some of the planned courses.


  • Technology – online scams, how to use Zoom, Smartphones, online banking and shopping
  • Te Ao Māori – Matariki, flax weaving, how to cook a Hangi, Kuini’s bouquet
  • Health – first aid courses, bowel cancer, understanding dementia, diabetes, menopause, prostate cancer, getting through COVID
  • Employment – workplace safety, learners license, barista skills, food safety, apprenticeships
  • Community connections – Rainbow community

Employment Success

Rob at MÓN, a local bakehouse in Hawkes Bay, was looking for staff to fill a few positions. Our team worked with Rob to connect with Deaf people looking for work. After an interview and a trial, Hamish and Nora were offered positions. Hamish was offered a cleaning position and Nora a Bakery Assistant role. A Facilitator from Deaf Aotearoa supported Hamish and Nora through the process.

Within our Adults & Seniors service we are able to support Deaf people into employment. Often employers require support to enable them to communicate with clarity with their new Deaf staff members.

In the bakehouse we supported the employer to create a visual checklist that Hamish was able to use to complete the tasks required. Both Hamish and Nora have worked at MÓN for over 1 year now.

The lockdowns in 2021 were an issue for many in Aotearoa, however our team of facilitators were able to stay in contact with the bakehouse, Hamish and Nora to ensure everyone was aware of any changes to the COVID traffic light system. When staff were able to return to work, we carried out regular visits to check in and support the team with communication when required.

In February 2022, the bakehouse was looking for more staff for the school lunch team, they contacted Deaf Aotearoa and asked if there were any other Deaf people in the area, looking for work. We were able to connect Mereana with the bakehouse and she was offered a position!

Hamish, Nora and Mereana are valued members of the bakehouse team.

Information & Resources and Translation

Our Translation service is going from strength to strength. As the Disabled peoples Organisation (DPO) we are involved in the All of Government Alternate Formats group. This work involves us providing advice and guidance to government agencies and departments. Over the past year we have continued to provide translations for Unite Against COVID website and official government messages regarding COVID. These translations were high priority as it was important that the community received the information in a timely manner via the government website as well as our main website and our social media platforms. We worked with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to develop 40 NZSL translations for the Get Ready Website.

The NZSL Information and Resources team are responsible for creating our website, social media and print content. We have created educational resources for families in the First Signs service. We have also created promotional fliers for the ACE Workshops which are advertised on the website with a NZSL video or as a printable flier that can be handed out or pinned to a noticeboard. The Deaf Aotearoa website continues to evolve. We have added notifications to the website so that mobile phone users are notified of new posts which are sent to over 1,000 subscribers. We have also added the ability for people to comment on posts. This provides our audience another way to interact with Deaf Aotearoa. You may have noticed that many of our images on the website are now animated short clips which adds life to our website and takes advantage of our beautiful language, New Zealand Sign Language, to tell the story.


Over the past year, COVID disruptions have provided extra challenges with staff, interpreters, and Deaf community members all unavailable for periods as the impact of the virus continued. We really appreciated that the Deaf community understood that just as supermarkets were out of stock of products due to COVID, iSign was also sometimes unable able to provide interpreters for the same reason. We have all learnt a great deal over the past three years and it’s pleasing that we have all approached these challenges with creative solutions and resilience. Deaf people’s feedback has been an important part of iSign changing the way we work.

This year although we have increased the number of bookings by 10% on the previous year, the number of hours of interpreting provided has reduced by 7%. This is a result of the reduction in the number of workshops, conferences, hui and other full day events. In recent months, as the restrictions on large gatherings have been relaxed, our bookings and interpreting hours have both increased.

The interpreting workforce is obviously a key part of iSign, and we continue to support interpreters’ wellbeing in several ways, as well as payment of their SLIANZ membership fees and funding training opportunities.

For new and developing interpreters we work with the Deaf community to provide observation and opportunities for mentoring and supervision from experienced interpreters. We have invested heavily in training and supporting interpreters from outside Wellington to interpret for the Prime Minister and other Ministers, and to take on media and other high-profile assignments around the country.

We have enjoyed supporting CODAs by providing interpreters for their social activities such as kayaking and other social events which bring the community together.

We have again been involved in many high-profile Government events and announcements and continue to provide access to the Prime Minister’s Post Cabinet press conference through Kordia television.

One of the more prominent events was the swearing in of the new Governor General Dame Cindy Kiro, this came with its own pomp and ceremony, and this was skilfully interpreted by two of our most experienced interpreters, Jenn Gilbert and Angela Murray.

More recently, it was an honour to provide interpreters for the Proclamation of King Charles III, with Melissa Simchowitz and Francesca Collins interpreting an incredibly significant and historic ceremony.

We have many projects planned for the coming year all tied to our Vision of Full Access for Deaf People, including how we can increase the interpreter workforce and increased advocacy for the Deaf community where their rights to an interpreter are impeded.

There are more challenging times ahead and iSign will continue to change with these times and pursue its purpose of providing full access.

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