The Sign Language Interpreters Association of New Zealand
The Sign Language Interpreters Association of New Zealand (SLIANZ Inc.)was incorporated in 1997. The first training course for interpreters was offered in 1985, under the NZ Association of the Deaf, but no further training was held until 1992, when a two-year Diploma course at Auckland University of Technology (formerly Auckland Institute of Technology) was established.
Since then, the profession has grown steadily, yet the small numbers of interpreters reflects a profession that is still emerging. The profession has advanced quickly in New Zealand, benefiting from professional models developed overseas. Nevertheless, challenges remain in meeting the level of demand for interpreting services, and in increasing consumer understanding about the role and usefulness of interpreters as professionals who are trained to facilitate communication between Deaf and hearing people.
In April 2006 the New Zealand Sign Language Act provided official recognition of the language of the Deaf community, making it the second official language, alongside Maori. For most of the 20th century, NZSL was stigmatised within deaf education and society generally, leaving Deaf people reluctant to use sign language in public, even though speech and lip-reading is an unreliable form of communication. The legal recognition of NZSL presents a powerful opportunity to recognise and redress the Deaf community's historical experience of exclusion and frustration resulting from being unable to access education and public life through sign language. The advent of interpreting services has helped raise the public profile of NZSL and contributed to changing societal understanding about Deaf people by enabling greater communication. Today, Deaf New Zealanders generally regard communication access via an interpreter as their right, and hearing people interacting with Deaf people are also likely to consider this the right thing to do. This expectation is strengthened by the NZSL Act, specifically in legal proceedings and in the provision of government services. The marketplace has now moved beyond the stage of simply finding someone to fill the role of an interpreter: the demand is now for consistent access to competent and suitably qualified interpreters.
SLIANZ works toward this aim by promoting and upholding professional practices and standards amongst sign language interpreters, and by providing accountability for consumers through processes of registration, professional development, a Code of Ethics, and a complaints procedure. This Directory enables the public to locate qualified interpreters by making their contact details and background information conveniently accessible to those who are seeking good communication outcomes.
Dr Rachel Locker McKee
Founding president of SLIANZ