Opinion: Beyond listening – Ensuring parity for Māori D/deaf* youth

Issue: Volume 99, Number 3

Posted: 27 February 2020
Reference #: 1HA5yT

Dr Anne Hynds, a senior researcher with Ihi Research, says the obstacles that prevent Ngāti Turi rangatahi (Māori D/deaf youth) fully participating in te ao Māori and te ao Pākehā need to be identified and removed.

Most of my work involves trying to understand ‘what counts’ as culturally responsive, sustaining and inclusive pedagogy. 

Many years ago, I was privileged to be invited to participate in a collaborative research project involving Ngāti Turi rangatahi.1  

The project, called Ko wai au? Who am I? See my voice?, involved a group of young people taking photos and writing accompanying narratives about what was important to them in terms of their culture, identity and language. These became part of a photograph exhibition that was displayed throughout Aotearoa. 

Ko wai au? Who am I? See my voice?(external link)

The exhibition was sponsored by the Ministry of Education and displayed at the Ministry’s head office as part of Māori Language Week in 2013. It was also developed into a short film, which is a wonderful showcase for the stories. 

Although the rangatahi were proud of who they were as both Māori and D/deaf, the threat to their cultural identities was always present, forged from a denial of their basic human rights, in particular, their rights to communicate and participate with hearing people. 

New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) and te reo Māori are both vulnerable languages, despite being official languages of Aotearoa. Access to, and participation in te ao Māori is compounded by the severe shortage of (NZSL) expertise. 

This is not just a problem of people not listening to Māori D/deaf youth but is also about the need to identify and remove the many obstacles that prevent their full participation in te ao Māori and te ao Pākehā. These young people wanted things to change and improve for the benefit of others. 

Noted social justice advocate Nancy Fraser argues ‘the most general meaning of justice, is parity of participation’. This necessitates that all are able to contribute meaningfully in the social institutions they inhabit. 

She states that ‘overcoming injustice means dismantling institutionalised obstacles that prevent some people from participating on a par with others, as full partners in social interaction’.2

This means that hearing teachers and educational policymakers need to go beyond simply listening, to a process that ensures Ngāti Turi are actively participating in their education in ways that develop and sustain their dual identities (Māori and D/deaf) and reach their goals and aspirations.  

* The use of D/deaf indicates different understandings of D/deaf people, who may identify as members of a linguistic and cultural group (Deaf) or in terms of medical models of disability (deaf).

Ko Wai Au (See My Voice)(external link)

This video captures an inspiring dialogue from six empowering Māori rangatahi who identify as Deaf to communicate with others leading to a wider understanding of aspirations as young Deaf Māori.

Tuhoi Henry was one of the Ngāti Turi who took part in Ko Wai Au?

He wrote:

My name is Tuhoi. I was born deaf and there is deafness in my whānau. I received my first introduction to Māori culture in a kura up north. But at that stage I didn’t have many people who communicated with me at school. I didn’t think that my father was proud of me until after he passed away. Then, I learned my dad had told others he was very proud of me because I studied hard at school.

I feel really right to be Māori and Deaf.
It doesn’t matter if I am half or whatever.
I am still Māori and Deaf.

Tuhoi and friends performing for NZ Sign Language week

Addressing parity toolbox

  • Ensure Māori D/deaf tamariki and rangatahi and others learn about and have access to Māori D/deaf role models such as the late Patrick Thompson (QSM) and Michael Wi have dedicated their lives for the betterment of Ngāti Turi. 
  • Actively advocate for parity of participation for Māori D/deaf on school governance boards and involvement in development of localised curriculum.
  • Ensure a strengths-based approach to working with Māori D/deaf Ngāti Turi; consider  developing a photo-voice, community-based project similar to ‘Ko wai au?’
  • Enrol in NZSL classes and demand more NZSL resources in schools.


¹Faircloth, S. C., Hynds, A., Jacob, H., Green, C., & Thompson, P. (2016).
Ko wai au? Who am I? Examining the multiple identities of Māori youth(external link). International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education,29(3), 359–380.

²Fraser, N. (2009). Scales of justice: Reimagining political space in a globalizing world. New York: Columbia University Press.

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BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 1:38 pm, 27 February 2020

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