Interns on our NZSL team

Back at the start of 2020 , when New Zealand felt like a very different place, the NZSL Board for the first time hired two interns, both members of the Deaf community. Their purpose was clear – to see what support Deaf youth really needed to help guide the Board with NZSL funding decisions.

Zoe Ferguson was one of the two interns hired, fresh from completing her level 3 NCEA and year 13 at high school. “While I was growing up, I saw two people I know who are Deaf became interns in the Ministry of Education. I decided to write to different ministry departments to see if they were taking on interns. When ODI replied to say that they have been approved and opened for applications, I thought that it would be great to work there because I am passionate about anything with law and deaf youth.”

Our other intern was Cory Myatt, who was in the process of applying to go to Victoria University to enrol in Deaf Studies in order to become a NZSL tutor. He sought out the internship to get practical work experience and also to see how he could help the Deaf community. Cory and Zoe travelled with our NZSL team of Kellye and Shona to community meetings around the country, and were in the process of setting up the youth forum (that we still hope to have in the future). Then along came COVID-19 and like the rest of the team, they had to pivot to working from home.

“We created a youth report to show what youth need, and how NZSL benefits them,” says Zoe. COVID-19 has delayed these reports but we hope to make them available soon. “I have learned a lot here because my family hasn't had an interest in government or we never really talk about it, so it was different but I learned and saw things what actually happens and it was worth the experience,” says Cory.

Zoe’s take-home message from her work can be applied universally. “The one thing that I learned while working in ODI was that it's okay to not know what to do for a second - it’s not the end of the world. It’s okay to ask questions or talk to people if needed”

In exchange, the interns offered us a fresh perspective, but also a reminder that there’s still work to be done “The main thing I did notice is that their access to education was no different to mine and that was a bit disconcerting,” said Kellye, Advisor at the Office for Disability Issues. “Deaf youth are still not accessing the full education system, particularly not in NZSL.“

As to what’s next? Cory hopes to travel and continue to meet people in the way that he did with his work for ODI. Zoe will continue working in the Deaf community, including in her role on the Deaf Aotearoa Youth Board.

“At the moment I am studying towards a bachelor degree in project management at Ara in Christchurch which is providing a very stimulating learning environment”. We hope to have further opportunities for interns in the future – and to be able to hold those youth forums. Watch this space!

Zoe and Cory

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