2024 NZSL Awards Winners

NZSL Accessibility: Concentrix/NZ Relay 

Concentrix is contracted to MBIE to provide the NZ Relay service. A service that enables Deaf and hard of hearing New Zealanders to communicate in NZSL with hearing people and services, via an online interpreter.   

Their dedication to accessibility can be seen within their staffing. In the NZ team they have hired a Deaf Promotions and Quality Lead –to provide staff with direct training in Deaf culture and NZSL.   

In Dec 2023 Concentrix/NZ Relay launched an interactive online training programme that is now accessible to all NZ and Australian Concentrix staff. This online training programme, which is soon to be released globally to all 270k+ Concentrix staff, enables staff to gain a greater understanding of Deaf culture and sign languages. 

NZSL in Government: Stats NZ  

The team at Statistics NZ worked to make the 2023 Census and the 2023 Disability Survey accessible in NZSL. The work was carried out with direct engagement with the Deaf community and by a dedicated team of Deaf and non-deaf professionals. With NZSL experts leading the work on the translations from English into NZSL.  

This was the first time the Census had been made available to New Zealanders in NZSL. The team produced more than 80 videos and created a dedicated webpage so the community could access them in one place.  

Stats NZ also worked alongside Deaf Youth also to produce a video resource highlighting the value of data. Some of the youth who participated in that project are here this evening!  

The process carried out by Statistics NZ was one that others can follow as it showed the value of having Deaf and NZSL experts in the team and working in collaboration with the community to ensure the messages are reaching everyone. 

NZSL Employer Award:Allpress Espresso

Allpress Espresso is a great example of what it means to be an Inclusive company. For over two years now they have committed to contracting the services of NZSL4U to come in and give NZSL lessons to their staff. With a Deaf staff member in the team the NZSL lessons mean that they can all work as a team.  

Including NZSL is a great opportunity for professional development for the team and a way of showing genuine respect for NZSL in the workplace.  

We would love to see more employers following the lead of Allpress Espresso.   

NZSL in Education: Dale Thomas – Fruitvale Primary School  

Dale is a dedicated teacher at Fruitvale School in Auckland. He brings to his teaching the experience of being a CODA and a qualified NZSL interpreter. Dale has not only made NZSL a core part of his classroom programme, ensuring deaf and hearing learners can communicate with each other, he has also established a lunch time NZSL club bringing in a Deaf NZSL tutor from Ko Taku Reo, to support akonga in other classes to learn and further develop NZSL. 

Visitors to Dale’s class comment on how wonderful it is to see deaf and hearing akonga working in groups and communicating in NZSL.  

Dale is a wonderful example of what is means to have NZSL in education.   

NZSL Arts & Culture : Nadia, Rob and James – ‘For the Love’ short film  

Rob, James and Nadia created a beautiful and powerful short film titled For the Love – the production was an incredible experience for the Deaf and hearing people involved and the end product was incredibly moving. The team was genuine in their inclusion and respect for NZSL, they were guided by Deaf experts – Erica Dawson and Michelle and Rob Sinclair.   

A beautiful example of NZSL in Arts and Culture.


NZSL in Sports and Recreation: Chris Sinclair – Deaf Sports NZ  

Chris is the President of Deaf Sports NZ – the is a voluntary role that Chris works passionately at in his spare time.  

He organised and led a large contingent of over 60 Deaf Kiwi sportspeople, to play in the Australian Deaf Games earlier this year. Chris worked hard to bring young people into the team – for many it was their first-time representing NZ in their sport and/or travelling in a large Deaf group.  

The many community members who nominated Chris for this award wanted Chris to receive the recognition he deserves for working so hard to ensure that NZSL is going from strength to strength in the sport and recreation world.  

NZSL Interpreter of the Year: Rekha Rosario   

Rekha is described as an outstanding professional who has a genuine commitment to the role of interpreter and to ensuring Deaf people have access to information.  

One of Rekha’s notable qualities is her consistent punctuality, she is always present when needed. This reliability is crucial, especially in medical situations where accurate and timely communication is paramount. Rekha’s proficiency in medical terminology during doctors’ appointments and hospital visits, coupled with precise fingerspelling, has made a significant difference in many people’s lives.   

Rekha’s interpreting skill and professionalism is topped off by her warm, friendly and caring demeanour.  Her commitment to enhancing communication, whether in medical settings, online meetings, or personal interactions, exemplifies the qualities that define an outstanding NZSL interpreter. 

NZSL Teacher of the Year: Shannon Morris 

Shannon is well known leader in the community and a dedicated teacher of NZSL. Shannon works hard to provide quality learning opportunities to her students. She also goes above and beyond to support other teachers of NZSL. Tutors have commented on the time Shannon has given to their further development – both new and provisional tutors have benefited from Shannon’s years of experience. Shannon gives her time each year to support the NZSL4U camps where learners can be in a NZSL rich environment  

Shannon is very deserving of this recognition. 

Local Champion – Auckland: Susan Thomas  

Susan is an amazing volunteer who is has worked for years in a variety of sports groups and held many roles. Currently Susan is a vital member of the Auckland Deaf Outdoor Adventure Club.  

The Club is a social group who gather monthly for various outings and experiences. The club provides a NZSL rich environment where members can enjoy the outdoors together. Susan’s roles involve organising events, reminding members of upcoming events, encouraging new members and supporting everyone to participate.  Susan works hard to keep the group connected. Members say they appreciate the effort and time that Susan puts into supporting members to attend outings. 

Local Champion – Taranaki: Hanna Deal  

Hanna is wonderful role model to many in Taranaki. She supports everyone in the Deaf community and is always encouraging people to come together at events and Deaf community gatherings. A wonderful teacher of NZSL – Hanna is supportive and encouraging of learners of NZSL. As well as supporting Deaf students at school.   

Local Champion – Manawatū: Candice David  

Candice is a dedicated teacher of NZSL – her students say they feel welcomed and supported by Candice and they appreciate the inclusive learning environment she creates. Candice goes out of her way to support her students to attend Deaf Club events – providing a wonderful opportunity to be in a NZSL rich environment.  


Local Champion - Canterbury: Noelani Ritchie  

Noelani is a wonderful advocate for NZSL. Noelani has been described as an amazing role model and someone that proves ‘Deaf can do anything!’ She jumps at any opportunity to educate people about NZSL, creating posters and video resources to support learners of NZSL – In 2022 Noelani completed Outward Bound an incredible achievement for anyone but one that was made even more unforgettable for the participants as Noelani brought to her group, NZSL and Deaf awareness.  

Youth Champion: Cha’Nel Kaa-Luke  

Cha’Nel has her communities and young people at the center of all she does. ChaNel grabs every opportunity to advocate for NZSL and make a difference for young people.  

Contributing to numerous diverse platforms which allow her to showcase the richness of Deaf culture and promote NZSL in unique and impactful ways.  

While juggling her work and study commitments, Cha’Nel works tirelessly in her voluntary roles.  

An active member of the Deaf Aotearoa Youth Board Cha’Nel has represented NZ Deaf youth at the World Federation of the Deaf congress 2023- South Korea and participated in production of NZSL resources and online panel discussions that aim to empower Deaf youth and educate the wider public.  

Cha’Nel’s activities are contributing to a more empowered, visible, and connected Deaf youth community by challenging stereotypes, promoting cultural pride, and advocating for positive change.

Te Panekiretanga o te Reo Rotarota  

Traditionally we have celebrated with a NZSL Champion and a Māori Champion during NZSL Week – this year we have combined them into one award and titled it Te Panekiretanga o te Reo Rotarota. This award is to recognise a lifetime of service.

This was awarded to Stephanie Awheto

Stephanie is an interpreter who works between NZSL, te reo Māori and English. She has spent her entire interpreting career advocating for and working with whanau turi.

Her relationship with the Deaf world began when she was introduced to the late Patrick Wikiriwhi Thompson. Their relationship was more like whanau – together they worked on carving a path for Turi Māori. They supported those wanting to reconnect with their Māoritanga and reclaim matauranga Māori.

After the passing of Patrick, Stephanie continued this legacy, standing strong as an advocate, educator and interpreter.

There are too many achievements to name, and many that we may not know about.

Some of the highlights are:

  • Stephanie is the first tri-lingual interpreter in New Zealand – she has worked countless hours, providing interpreting services and greater access to for whanau turi to te reo Māori spaces.
  • She has often driven hours at a moment’s notice to be with māori Deaf people at their whanau tangi. This not only provides access to proceedings and customs of a tangi but has allowed, sometimes first time, Deaf whanau to stand and speak about their loved one and given a space for them to share their memories.
  • Stephanie has interpreted many Waitangi Day services, powhiri and ceremonies, as well as many other nationally significant Māori events.
  • She has worked with Turi Māori at different points through the years on development of Māori sign concepts in NZSL, allowing for newer and deeper conversations about various aspects of te ao Māori.
  • Stephanie has run wānanga with Māori interpreters and been a mentor to so many.
  • She is always so generous with her time, her experience and wisdom – for the benefit of Turi Māori and for other interpreters.
  • Stephanie Awheto is a true Māori Champion of NZSL.