Annual Report 2022-2023

Executive Board President’s Report

I am very pleased to present my report to Deaf Aotearoa’s members and stakeholders. The past year has been a busy time for us all, and our organisation has achieved many things that we are all very proud of. Our boards, CEO, leadership team and staff all work very hard to advocate for Deaf people’s rights and to ensure Deaf Aotearoa remains strong and sustainable.

I was thrilled to see NZSL Week continue to be a wonderful celebration of our language and culture. We were honoured to host the Minister for Disability Issues, Hon. Priyanca Radhakrishnan, at the NZSL Week Breakfast in Parliament. It was wonderful to see so many Deaf people attend, along with many of our government partners and allies from the disability sector.

It was an honour to launch the new NZSL name for Whaikaha ‒ Ministry of Disabled People, along with NZSL Board Chair Rhian Yates and NZSL Teacher Julianne Russ, in Parliament. Whaikaha is the first government ministry to be given an NZSL sign name and Deaf Aotearoa were honoured to be able to contribute to this process. We hope that other government ministries now do likewise and engage with the Deaf community to develop sign names.

As well as working hard within Aotearoa, we strive to have an impact internationally. I attended the Pacific Conference on Disability in Fiji and it was wonderful to meet with Deaf delegates from Fiji, Solomon Islands, Samoa and Kiribati and to hear about the work they are doing to advance Deaf people’s rights in the Oceania region.

It was inspiring to see such a large group of Deaf Kiwis travel to South Korea for the World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf. I, along with Executive Board members Craig Findsen and Emmie Bensley, and General Manager – Adults & Seniors Lara Draper had the privilege of attending a leadership workshop presented in partnership by Gallaudet University, Deaf Connect and WFD. We all learned a great deal about advocacy and how Deaf people are succeeding in establishing their country’s sign languages as official languages.

The initial decision to award the hosting rights for the next Congress in 2027 to the United Arab Emirates was a controversial one. The Executive Board and many of our community were quite concerned and like many WFD members, had many questions that needed to be answered. The subsequent Extraordinary General Assembly held in late October again raised many questions and concerns about the freedom and safety of Congress delegates and attendees. Consequently, Deaf Aotearoa abstained from voting at the Extraordinary General Assembly. With both Nigeria and Norway withdrawing their bids, UAE was confirmed by the WFD members as the host for the Congress in 2027 and we wish them well in their preparations and hope that they are mindful of ensuring that all Deaf people feel welcome and safe during their visit.

The Executive Board were so pleased to see Victoria Manning MNZM elected for a second term on the WFD Board. Victoria is a wonderful leader and ambassador for Deaf people. Victoria wants to see greater support and opportunities for Deaf women and Deaf people in the Pacific region and we look forward to supporting her in her work over the next four years.

A real highlight of the Congress was the announcement of the WFD Declaration on the Rights of Deaf Children which includes 10 articles proclaiming the rights of Deaf children around the world and is an essential tool for ensuring the rights of deaf children.

It has been wonderful to see our Youth Board so proactive and energised. Each of the board members brings with them a unique perspective and strong connections with their community.

Looking to the future, we look forward to continuing to work closely with the Deaf community to ensure we can speak authentically on behalf of our members so that the Government has a clear understanding of the needs, dreams and aspirations of Deaf people in Aotearoa.

Joanne Klaver
President, Executive Board

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