Signs of Professionalism conference attendees celebrate 25 years of NZSL interpreting and teaching

In November 2017 the three day Signs of Professionalism conference in Auckland brought together over 270 people to celebrate the exciting milestone of 25 years of NZSL interpreting and teaching.
Photo of delegates at the Signs of Professionalism conference
Delegates at the Signs of Professionalism Conference held in Auckland in November 2017

In November 2017 the three day Signs of Professionalism conference ( was held at Auckland University of Technology.  This event brought together over 270 Deaf and hearing teachers, educators, interpreters, researchers, and students to celebrate the exciting milestone of 25 years of NZSL interpreting and teaching.

The conference was co-hosted by four partner organisations who worked in collaboration for over one year to plan and organise this event:  

The conference was warmly opened with a pōwhiri led by Michael Wi and supported by the Māori Deaf community, a great experience for our international delegates. Presentations were then opened with a welcome from AUT’s Vice Chancellor Derek McCormack. The programme was a diverse, informative, and interesting range of presentations, workshops, and panel discussions. Topics covered included (but were not limited to): NZSL teaching, interpreting research, Deaf education, and planning for the future of NZSL. 

Delegates said they learnt a lot and felt inspired by the quality of presentationsJames Bichan (Christchurch) said “It was a great opportunity to see combined SLIANZ and NZSLTA sharing thoughts and ideas together - a rare opportunity to exchange valuable experiences, knowledge and perspectives. I look forward to new opportunities and new initiatives in the future”. 

 Three wonderful keynote presentations gave delegates many ideas for discussion, reflection, and inspiration throughout the weekend

Shona McGhie (Auckland) said “An excellent conference using NZSL which is a great value. Sign language is the spirit of Deaf people for New Zealand and worldwide. A great sign language conference!”

Funding from the NZSL Board helped make this conference as accessible as possible. It allowed us to provide subsidised registration to 222 delegates, who paid only $120 (instead of $300) for the entire weekend including social events. As well provision of NZSL-English interpreting and live captioning, we were able to live stream keynote sessions and other selected presentations so that people unable to come could still watch online. To date these sessions have had over 1,500 views, and they will continue to be available at: . Many presentations were also video recorded and will be available soon through the AUT website, along with powerpoint presentations and presenter notes, where available.

The conference also included fun social events, entertainment, and celebrations! The MCs for the Friday evening were Sara Pivac Alexander and Victoria Lessing, followed by Megan Mansfield and Matthew Flynn for Saturday evening. On the Friday evening an official celebration event marked 25 years of NZSL interpreting and teaching and many of the people who were instrumental in developing our professions were honoured, including David McKee and Rachel McKee who established the interpreter training programme at AUT in 1992. Saturday entertainment included fantastic sign singing performances by SLIANZ, an interpreter inspired short filmNZSLTA video clips to reflect winners of NZSL StoryFest for the last 25 years. We also saw a story performed by Shaun Fahey, a previous StoryFest winner,and a farewell performance by Māori Deaf.

Delegates reflected on the conference as a valuable opportunity to meet, socialise with new and old friends; and to network and discuss new ideas with new people. They felt there was a good choice of presentations and workshops and they felt they benefitted personally as well as professionally. 

Delegate feedback on the conference:

John Pua, a Deaf delegate from Papua New Guinea, said "Wow I was astounded to find that there are so many NZ Deaf signers I could talk to. I learnt such a wealth of information from them."

Rebeccah Curtis, SLIANZ President, sums up her experience at the conference: "What an awesome opportunity for NZSL interpreters to have this calibre of professional development and to experience it alongside NZSL teachers and the Deaf community."

Any questions about the conference or presentation videos/ live streaming?

Contact George Major or Lynette Pivac

Conference organising committee members:

  • AUT: Lynette Pivac, George Major, Susie Ovens
  • SLIANZ: Rebeccah Curtis, Kelly Hodgins, Felicity Crowe, Lynx
  • NZSLTA: Shona McGhie, Pam Croskery, Karla Smith
  • VUW: Rachel McKee, Sara Pivac Alexander

We would also like to acknowledge the interpreters, student volunteers, captioners, and photographers who worked very hard throughout the conference.

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