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I’d like to acknowledge the Deaf Studies Research Unit here at Victoria University. For over 20 years, the Deaf Studies Unit has shown commitment and leadership in its efforts to raise the profile of NZSL through research, teaching and development. Thank you Professor Wendy Larner for your warm welcome.

We’re here this evening to celebrate the launch of Learn NZSL — another innovation and important contribution to NZSL by Victoria University.

I was first made aware of this project in 2015, when the Government contributed $230,000 through the NZSL Fund, administered by the NZSL Board.  

It’s an absolute pleasure to now see the project realised, and very shortly, in action.

It’s fitting that the launch of Learn NZSL is today — 6 April — because on this day 11 years ago the NZSL Act 2006 was passed.

As you all know, the passing of the Act established NZSL as an official language. Since then, demand from New Zealanders wanting to learn sign language has increased; a demand that outstrips the best endeavours of the NZSL teachers and tutors providing classes across the country.

Since 2014, when the Government established the NZSL Board, we’ve made an annual investment of $1.25 million to promote and maintain NZSL.

The $1.25 million, administered by the Board, sits alongside a $3.2 million annual investment in education, ensuring deaf children are able to learn NZSL, and learn in NZSL. 

Learn NZSL combines the Board’s funding with the expertise, innovation and commitment of the Deaf Studies Research Unit to improve access to NZSL for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

I’d like to acknowledge members of the NZSL Board who are here this evening. Unfortunately not all members of the Board were able to be here, but I know they’re all very proud of what has been and will be achieved through this project.

Congratulations and thank you to the Deaf Studies Research Unit and to Sara Pivac Alexander, the project lead. 

This new online resource will allow New Zealanders to learn NZSL from anywhere, at any time.

Learn NZSL is split into nine topics supported by interactive tasks. With my Associate Tourism Minister hat on, I was pleased to see one topic provides signs, phrases and activities related to places and recreational activities around New Zealand.

About 95 per cent of deaf children are born into hearing families. Learn NZSL will enable parents to communicate with their deaf children in ways that may not have previously been possible. I look forward to seeing the benefits of this wonderful resource.

You might be interested to know that In November 2016, I launched the New Zealand Disability Strategy 2016-20126.  The Strategy makes a commitment to achieving a non-disabling New Zealand, and details the outcomes important for disabled New Zealanders.

Better access to NZSL is identified within the Strategy, particularly within the two outcomes related to Education and Accessibility. Over 2017, the Office for Disability Issues will be working with the disability sector, government agencies, and others to establish goals and targets that will ensure the Strategy makes a real difference.

Thank you once again to all involved in Learn NZSL. New Zealand can be proud of its achievements in promoting and maintaining the use of NZSL.

the link to the website is http://www.learnnzsl.nz

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