A New Era for Deaf Aotearoa - Update on New Structure and Service Model

Deaf Aotearoa has been going through some significant changes to improve the services we provide to deaf people and to make our organisation strong and sustainable.

Deaf Aotearoa organisation changes

Deaf Aotearoa was formed in 1977 by a group of people wanting to provide support services to deaf people. It was formed as the NZ Association of the Deaf and was established as an incorporated society, under the Incorporated Societies Act 1908.

Deaf Aotearoa has undergone steady development, growing from one staff member in 1980 to over 60 permanent staff in 2015. Deaf Aotearoa’s annual turnover is now over $5 million and the organisations assets are worth almost $6 million. Our organisation is in good heart and is well regarded throughout NZ and internationally.

Deaf Aotearoa NZ Inc. is an incorporated society which is no longer a suitable vehicle for managing a significant business. The incorporated society legislation was written in 1908 and was not designed for large service delivery organisations. The Incorporated Societies Act 1908 is now considered an outdated piece of legislation which has not kept pace with the changes in society. Many organisations now do not use the incorporated society as their legal entity, opting instead for the more defined stats of Charitable Trust or Charitable Company.

To protect Deaf Aotearoa and ensure the organisation is strong and sustainable into the future, all Deaf Aotearoa business (services and staff) has been transferred to Deaf Aotearoa Holdings Ltd – a limited liability company. This change strengthens the delivery of services and makes the organisation more sustainable.

The Deaf Aotearoa Executive Board will remain as the ultimate authority of Deaf Aotearoa. The Executive Board of Deaf Aotearoa NZ Inc. represent the collective voice of the Deaf community, are responsible for setting the overall strategic direction of the organisation and responsible for measuring the general, overall performance of Deaf Aotearoa Holdings Limited (our services).

The Deaf Aotearoa Executive Board appoints a Chief Executive with full authority to head Deaf Aotearoa Holdings Limited, providing the organisation’s business and services.

A new Deaf Aotearoa Holdings Limited (DAHL) board of directors will be established to support the Chief Executive in their role. The DAHL directors will be appointed by the Chief Executive and will include the Chief Executive, the Deaf Aotearoa Executive Board president or another Executive Board member with business expertise, and up to four others with appropriate experience in business such as finances, legal, HR, communications. This will mean the Deaf Aotearoa Executive Board can focus on their strengths of representing the collective interests of the Deaf community. The DAHL board of directors report to the Deaf Aotearoa Executive Board who hold the ultimate responsibility for Deaf Aotearoa.

These changes have been recommended and endorsed by legal advice and the advice of our auditors. The Deaf Way report 2010, also recommended making these structural changes. It also follows the actions of many other large not-for-profit organisations in New Zealand who have made the same changes. It a sensible and pragmatic business decision taken by the Executive Board of Deaf Aotearoa NZ Inc. which it is entitled to do.

Other organisations that have made these same structure changes, include:

  • Auckland Deaf Society (Auckland Deaf Society Foundation Trust)
  • Richmond Group (Richmond Service Limited and Richmond NZ Trust)
  • Auckland City Mission (Auckland City Mission Foundation)
  • NFD (Good Sounds Ltd)
  • IHC

These changes mean Deaf Aotearoa is stronger than it has ever been.

New service model

The Deaf community have long since been calling for improvements in services around the country. The Deaf Way report 2010 found that there was an inequity in service delivery in different parts of the country, with many Deaf people in rural areas and small towns unable to access the services they need.

From 1st July 2015, we will be offering all of our services from all of our offices. Our services will have new names and will be available to Deaf people throughout the country regardless of where they live. This is the biggest change to our service provision in the history of the organisation and will see us deliver services in areas where they have not previously been available.

Our service delivery roles have been redesigned and service staff will now be known as a ‘Facilitator’.

This means that the present role titles of service coordinator, employment consultant, community relations offices, youth worker, sign language facilitator, and tutor will no longer be used.

All service delivery staff will have the same role title of Facilitator and will potentially deliver all of our new services. 

Our new services offered by our Facilitators are:

* Employment & Career Advancement

* Education & Engagement

* Youth Service

* First Signs

* Hauora

* Tutoring

We have added a new role of ‘Pathway Assessor’ which will ensure holistic assessments are undertaken with service users, and that Deaf people will have access to the same opportunities and advice regardless of where they live.

These changes mean that deaf people can visit ANY Deaf Aotearoa office and get all the services we offer.

A highlight of the new service model is that our First Signs service will be available nationally a full nine years ahead of schedule. First Signs has had a remarkable impact over the past 12 months, with over 30 families with Deaf children (aged 0 – 5) being introduced to NZSL and the Deaf community. The service has provided employment opportunities for Deaf people in five regions in the first year since its establishment, and in establishing all of our services nationally we will see the number of Deaf staff employed at Deaf Aotearoa reach an all-time high.

iSign improvements

Alongside the redesign of Deaf Aotearoa services we have been reviewing our NZSL interpreting service iSign and we will be investing heavily in its development over the next 12 months. iSign provides interpreting services in all parts of the country and across all fields of expertise and we are considering a number of development initiatives that will further enhance the these services and the interpreting profession.

iSign has always been a business owned and operated by Deaf Aotearoa Holdings Limited and this will remain the same. iSign will operate under the same conditions as all other services within Deaf Aotearoa. iSign’s back office business support functions will be shared with Deaf Aotearoa, eg: finance, communications, IT, HR and quality controls.

There will continue to be a separation of duties with regards to service user engagement and management of information, including maintaining confidentiality of service user information. iSign service users will continue to engage directly with iSign (not through Deaf Aotearoa) and interpreter bookings will continue to be managed by iSign booking staff separately from Deaf Aotearoa.

iSign will also maintain its separate brand identity.

Recent reviews of iSign services have identified things iSign is doing well and things that need to be done better. Thus, Deaf Aotearoa will be investing heavily in iSign’s development over the next 12 months. Deaf Aotearoa will share information and ideas and seek further feedback on improvements going forward.

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