Long-awaited upgrade welcomed at deaf community hub

By Talisa Kupenga

Auckland's Kelston Deaf Education Centre officially opened its new campus today to continue educating and supporting deaf individuals within communities. The majority of the centre's students are Māori and they are excited their special place will continue to promote and uphold their culture.

The deaf community celebrate the long-awaited opening of the new and improved Kelston Deaf Education Centre (KDEC) campus.

Student Tuhoi Henry (Maniapoto, Ngāti Whatua) says "I think it's important for deaf [people] because they can develop their language and identity. When you're part of a hearing environment it's very difficult to develop that language and have a wider and more proficient view of the world."

KDEC is the service hub for approximately 2000 hearing impaired or deaf students between Turangi and the far north. It also has hostels on-site. The majority of its pupils are Māori which drives a strong cultural focus.

KDEC educator Michael Wi says “[students] learn the protocol around the pohiri (welcome) and it's theirs. This is their place to stand, this is their marae. They can't hear the karanga (call) they can't hear the waiata (songs) so we explain to them those protocols and why it's important for them to know more.”

Henry has been a KDEC student for nine-years. He aspires to grow more Māori sign interpreters and says his vision wouldn't have been possible without the centre's support.

"I would like to become more successful in myself so that I can feed that back into the deaf community and show people how to do things in a deaf way but also in a Māori way," he says.
“I think it's really important for more Māori deaf to become sign interpreters but again I think that's something to be achieved one step at a time."

KDEC's Ruaumoko marae is being refurbished and will be re-opened in the coming months.