Annual Report 2022-2023

Chief Executive’s Report

Deaf Aotearoa has achieved many milestones over the past year, and we are really proud of the progress we have made. Increased competition and heightened expectations from funders have meant our people at all levels have had to step up and the organisation as a whole has risen to the challenge.

In February we brought all our board members and general managers together for a two-day strategic planning workshop where everyone’s perspectives were shared and commitment to the way forward was clear. The gathering was the first time the leaders of Deaf Aotearoa had been at the same table and the environment made for rich conversations and healthy debates. The group came away united and invigorated for the years ahead.

NZSL Week took on a slightly differently look in 2023 with a change of approach from the major funder, the NZSL Fund, requiring a pivot from engaging with the Deaf and hearing communities through a range of local events, NZSL taster classes and advertising, to focus our efforts on hearing community through radio and TV. This year’s NZSL Week Hero was Jon Tai-Rakena, who wowed everyone wherever he went with his effervescent and engaging personality. Jon was the star of the Air New Zealand in-flight video, which highlighted our national airline’s commitment to accessibility and inclusion. NZSL Week will continue to evolve in the coming years, however we remain reliant on minimal funding for what has become a world-renowned celebration of one of Aotearoa’s official languages.

It was fantastic to continue our relationship with Garage Project during NZSL Week. The Garage Project team have been wonderfully supportive over the past five years in brewing a tasty beer to celebrate the Week and NZSL. Their work is acknowledged at the highest level in the Deaf community, with World Federation of the Deaf president Dr Joe Murray proudly wearing his Garage Project t-shirt and enjoying this year’s beer at the World Congress in Jeju, South Korea in July.

We welcome James Anderson-Pole back in the new role of Translation Team Leader, to provide dedicated leadership over this rapidly expanding and critically important area of our work. The translation team has grown to include three translators, Kyle Cloete, Tim Lewin, and Zoe Ferguson and provides the Deaf community with access to a huge volume of essential information from a wide range of government departments, councils, corporates and the arts sector.

The iSign Graduate Interpreter Programme was established in February and three newly graduated interpreters, Nicky Purdon, Xanthe Birch and Oliver Gill, along with highly experienced senior interpreter Donna Bailey were appointed as the inaugural team. The innovative programme sees new interpreters employed full-time for two years, and supported to develop and learn their craft, meet Deaf communities around the country and gain a strong understanding of the community and interpreting sector. The programme has required significant financial investment from Deaf Aotearoa, and we are committed to supporting the interpreting sector to grow and develop.

iSign has also recently appointed another former staff member, Rachel Elmes, to the role of Team Leader. Rachel returned to Deaf Aotearoa after several years working as an NZSL interpreter and in leadership roles across the disability and health sectors. Rachel leads a team of five customer service officers and provides valuable support to our GM-iSign, Mark Crooke.

After a four-year hiatus we were able to bring our staff together for two days of training in Auckland. We covered a wide range of topics including Deafhood, organisational values, risk-management, and reflected on our history and how we carry this in our work today. We acknowledged a long list of long-serving staff, with Tania Stuart being recognised for her 25 years of dedicated service to Deaf Aotearoa and the community.

Our Adults & Seniors team continues to carry out very important work with people needing support in a wide variety of areas. The team works to build people’s knowledge and independence and draws on the vast pool of wisdom and lived experience that exists within the team. In June we took on a new, short-term contract with Whaikaha to provide Facilitation Services and establish outreach centres in rural and remote areas. The project was hugely successful and saw a number of people engage with our team for the first time. As Whaikaha works towards the eventual national rollout of the Enabling Good Lives approach, it’s important for Deaf people to have access to services in their local area and to develop strong linkages with their communities. We look forward to expanding the reach of our teams into new areas through technology and connecting with existing providers.

A really pleasing development was the fortnightly First Signs playgroup held jointly with the team at The Hearing House in Auckland. Led by the forward-thinking and dynamic Dr Claire Green, The Hearing House has warmly welcomed Deaf Aotearoa into the Joyce Fisher Centre and our team come away after each playgroup full of energy and enthusiasm. This is a great example of a collaboration between Deaf leaders and hearing allies and a model we are looking to replicate elsewhere.

A personal highlight was co-presenting alongside our GM-Adults & Seniors Lara Draper at the World Congress in Jeju. Our presentation covered Deaf people’s experiences during civil defence emergencies in Aotearoa. Deaf Aotearoa has played a leading role in ensuring increased access to information throughout the past decade, highlighted by our partnership with the National Emergency Management Agency and local Civil Defence branches who work to keep people safe.

Wishing you all a safe holiday period and a prosperous 2024.

Lachlan Keating
Chief Executive

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