Anthony (Tony) Walton received the Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2001 for his services to the Deaf community. Tony has had a broad involvement in many areas of the Deaf community, having been President of the NZ Deaf Sports Association (NZSDA) and successfully hosting the World Deaf Games in 1989. Tony was President of the New Zealand Association of the Deaf (NZAD) and saw the development of several new initiatives including the 2nd Asia Pacific Deaf Youth Camp. Tony is noted as being the first Deaf Celebrant to conduct weddings and funerals exclusively in NZSL so Deaf people can access ceremonies in their own language.

  • Life Stories

Tony and NZ Deaf Sports

Tony delivers a speech at the Opening Ceremony of the World Games for the Deaf, Christchurch, 1989. Megan Mansfield interprets and Linda Prouse (interpreter) holds his paper. On the left, John MacDonald, a hearing member of the Games organising committee and on the right, Jerald Jordan, President of CISS look on.

Tony began his involvement as a member of the NZ Deaf Sports Association (NZDSA) Executive from 1975, growing their National Teams for international competitions such as the Trans-Tasman games and the World and Winter Games for the Deaf.

In 1985, Tony was appointed as the NZ Team Manager, taking 44 athletes to the World Games for the Deaf in Los Angeles, bringing back 8 medals. Tony then became the first Deaf president of the NZDSA in 1986, and attended several CISS congress meetings in the USA, Australia, Norway, Japan and Canada to expand Deaf participation in sports.

Tony’s most noted achievement was hosting the World Games for the Deaf in 1989. The games were close to being cancelled but Tony along with the committee fought hard with the government until they agreed to underwrite them at the last minute. The games went on to become one of the most successful in the history of the Games.

Tony and the Deaf Community

12th WFD Regional Asia/Pacific meeting in Thailand (2000). Tony presenting the NZSL Dictionary to the host country.

Presenting New Zealand’s report at the meeting and our bid for the 2nd Asia Pacific Youth Camp.

Tony began his involvement in the Deaf community when he left Sumner School for the Deaf and learnt New Zealand Sign language at the Wellington Deaf Society (Inc). Becoming President of the Society, Tony helped negotiate the purchase of the Deaf Centre in Wellington in partnership with the New Zealand Association of the Deaf (NZAD, now Deaf Aotearoa).

Tony was President of the NZAD from 2000-2003 . This was a turbulent time for the Deaf Association as they grappled with the idea of employing a CEO who was Deaf, and tight financial woes. Tony worked to sell the New Lynn building and the purchase of the current Avondale premises in Auckland. Tony lobbied for the partnership of Deaf Maori on the Council. Tony also pushed for Board meetings to be run in NZSL at a time when people used a mixture of signing and lip reading.

In 1999, Tony attended the World Federation of the Deaf Congress in Brisbane and was the first Deaf person from NZ to be elected onto the 12th WFD/Asia Pacific Executive Board. Tony presented the bid to the board for the 2nd Asia Pacific Deaf Youth Camp and won the agreement to host it in New Zealand.

Tony has always been very supportive of Deaf youth and became the first Deaf manager of Totara Residential Village at the Kelston Deaf Education Centre in 2001, encouraging and mentoring Deaf staff and students to take on increasing responsibilities and leadership roles.

The first Deaf Marriage Celebrant

Tony Walton and wife Megan Mansfield working together to make sure Deaf weddings run smoothly.

Tony at Matt and Andrea Farmer’s wedding, Tauranga, 2009

Tony trained at AUT in 2006 to become a Celebrant, and became the first Deaf celebrant in NZ who uses New Zealand Sign Language exclusively. Tony has performed several wedding and funeral ceremonies throughout New Zealand in NZSL. Tony says that the motive is simple, “Deaf couples want their wedding days to be in a language that they can understand,” he says. “It’s important to me and I feel proud to be part of it.”