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NZSL became an Official Language of New Zealand

With the passing of the NZSL Act 2006 in April 2006, NZSL became an official language with Te Reo (Māori) and English. NZSL is now gradually becoming more well-known and more respected as a language. The public show more interest in studying and discovering NZSL in schools, universities, work places, hospitals, government services and online through social media. 

This new legislation (NZSL Act 2006) goes some way to meeting the goals of the Deaf community for equal rights and access to government services and recognition of NZSL as a community language.

The NZSL Act 2006 offers Deaf citizens access to information through NZSL interpreters. The NZSL Act (in S 7) provides the right to use NZSL in courts.


The legislation also addresses the promotion and maintenance of NZSL, encouraging the NZ Government to consult with the Deaf community in relation to the protection and development of NZSL.

However, there is no mention in the Act about Deaf children’s rights to access to education using NZSL, or Deaf people's rights to access to public information through NZSL interpreters and videos (McKee & Vale, 2014). This includes government announcements on television channels or websites, for example health information or emergency warnings about natural disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis.


"If I accept another
person’s language, I have accepted the person… if I refuse the language, I thereby refuse the person, because the language is a part of the self”

​Bonaventura Parents’

Organisation Denmark


McKee, R. & Vale, M. (2014). The Vitality of New Zealand Sign Language project. (Report on a Survey of the Deaf/NZSL community). Retrieved from Victoria University of Wellington, Deaf Studies Research Unit Department of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies. website:

NZSL Act 2006, s 6 - 9. 

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