Oliver Ferguson – President

Oliver joined the Deaf Aotearoa Executive Board in 2011 and became President in May 2016. Oliver grew up in a Deaf family in Christchurch and went to Deaf school. With his parents, he was involved in Deaf Club and Deaf sports. Having three children, two of whom are Deaf, led Oliver to take on leadership roles as he lobbied and advocated for better Deaf education, joining the New Zealand Federation of Deaf Children and the Deaf Education Centre Board of Trustees.

He was also the Chair of the New Zealand Deaf Short Film Festival committee in 2009. As President of the Deaf Aotearoa Executive Board, Oliver networks with other Disabled People’s Organisations and is involved with the Ministry of Education Special Advisory Group for Deaf Education in New Zealand. He is also a representative for Deaf Aotearoa in the Oceania region of the World Federation of the Deaf. Oliver continues to focus on improved education for Deaf children and improved access and services that are culturally and linguistically appropriate for the Deaf community.

Outside of his roles in the Deaf community, for the last 10 years Oliver’s career as a freelance specialist in Visual Effects in the film industry has seen him involved in notable work on films including Avatar and The Hobbit trilogy.

Alana Best

Alana was elected to the Deaf Aotearoa Executive Board in 2016. She is a long-time advocate for equality and equity for Deaf and hard of hearing people in all aspects of life. With a Bachelor of Applied Science (Environmental Science) and a Certificate in Deaf Studies from AUT, Alana has worked in the education sector since 2019 as a New Zealand Sign Language Tutor.

She brings a wide range of experience to her role on the Executive Board, including being an international leader for the first Deaf children’s camp in Spain. Alana has also attended World Federation of the Deaf camps in Sweden and Japan.

As well as serving on the Deaf Aotearoa Executive Board, Alana also volunteers her time to disability organisations. She has been a member of Whangarei District Council’s Disability Advisory Group for five years.

Joanne Klaver

Joanne lives in Hamilton and joined the Deaf Aotearoa Executive Board in 2015. She has been involved in the Māori Deaf community for many years, including as an artist, filmmaker, storyteller and performer. Joanne has a passion for and commitment to promoting Māori Deaf development and culture. Her goals are to support and encourage Māori Deaf LGBTQ, Māori Deaf youth and Māori Turi Kapa Haka o Aotearoa, as well as continuing to develop trilingual language skills in the Māori Deaf community.

Her many achievements in the community include winning Deaf Short Film Festival and New Zealand Sign Language Awards, being a cast member of the bilingual theatre production ‘At The End of My Hands’, helping to organise Māori Deaf Hui, being a member of the first Deaf waka ama team, and contributing towards Deaf art exhibitions.

Joanne is a community support worker and is studying towards a Certificate in Deaf Studies.

Sam Te Maari

Sam joined the Deaf Aotearoa Executive Board in 2015 following a five-year term as one of the first Māori representatives for the Deaf Association, as it was then known, in the early 1990s. Sam’s focus at that time was Māori services, wānanga and advocating for Māori Deaf rights. Sam has also been involved in National Māori Deaf Hui since 1992, providing support for Māori sign development and Māori education for adults and youth.

In his current role on the Deaf Aotearoa Executive Board, Sam represents Deaf Aotearoa in the Oceania region of the World Federation of the Deaf. In this role he networks with other indigenous Deaf groups around the Oceania region, discussing Māori Deaf groups such as Ngāti Turi o Aotearoa and Te Whānau Turi o Aotearoa. Sam has worked as a welder for 40 years. Until recently, he was also a support worker at van Asch Deaf Education Centre, working with Deaf youth to support life skills learning and providing activities in NZSL.

His hobbies include the Australian Deaf Harley Davidson group, crafts, woodwork and gardening.

Eddie Hokianga

Eddie lives in Whangarei and was elected to the Deaf Aotearoa Executive Board in 2016. As an NZSL tutor, Eddie enjoys meeting Deaf and hearing people and his goal is to support the Māori Deaf and Deaf communities. Eddie’s focus includes the areas of Justice, Education and Interpreting – in particular supporting Māori Deaf youth, developing skills for trilingual interpreters and improving access for Māori Deaf to Māori language. As well as studying towards a degree in Applied Social Service, Eddie also has a Certificate in Deaf Studies and a Certificate in Mental Health and Addiction.

He is involved in two Deaf clubs as well as in Māori Deaf Hui and is a member of the Miyagi Kan Karate Club.