In 1996, Lynette Pivac was awarded the M.B.E. (Member of British Empire) for her services in Deaf education and sign language. Her two Deaf daughters inspired her to advocate for Deaf people’s linguistic rights to access education for over twenty years. Lynette has taught sign language since 1983, both in Australia and New Zealand. She was the first language assistant at the newly established NZSL interpreting programme at the Auckland Institute of Technology from July 1992 to December 1993. She mostly initiated the development of NZSL resources, the training of NZSL tutors and involvement in NZSL teaching issues at national level. Lynette became fully involved on the Kelston Deaf Education Centre’s Board of Trustees since the introduction of Tomorrow Schools, a new parental board body in 1989. She advocated for NZSL and Deaf Studies to be introduced into Deaf education and became the first Deaf Board of Trustees Chairperson from 1992 to 1994. After many years of voluntary work with various Deaf organisations, Lynette began her full-time job as a Deaf Resource Co-ordinator from 1994 to 1999. Her main role was educating staff, educators, parents and students about Deaf awareness as well as representing Deaf people in the DEAF Forum, for the national Deaf educational organisations. Lynette had organised many workshops and conferences including the first and only New Zealand Deaf Festival in 1995.

  • Life Stories

Training of NZSL interpreters

First NZSL Interpreting students having lunch on Queen Street, Auckland.

Sign Language Interpreter Programme at Auckland Institute of Technology (now Auckland University of Technology). Janice Howard, Rachel McKee, Lynette Pivac, David McKee.

November 1993, NZSL Pre-Intermediate Class at Auckland Institute of Technology (now Auckland University of Technology)

Lynette was the longest serving staff member on AUT University’s NZSL interpreting programme. She has made a huge contribution to the training of NZSL interpreters over the years and with high expectations from the Deaf community, has produced graduates of a high calibre.

Lynette started out as a language assistant at the Auckland Institute of Technology from July 1992 to December 1993. At the same time she became an evening NZSL lecturer at the same institute from 1992 to 1997. Lynette worked as a lecturer during the year of 1998 and then returned as a permanent lecturer in 2000, teaching NZSL and Deaf Community and Culture papers at various levels. From 2003 to 2006 and 2011 to 2012, she served as the Programme Co-ordinator for the sign language interpreting programme. She has been chiefly responsible for organising the much loved NZSL Weekend camps for interpreting students, mostly at Kawau Island in the Hauraki Gulf.

Lynette was awarded the AUT University Distinguished Teaching Award in 2006. She was championed for her quality of teaching and production of NZSL resources such as developing a DVD library and NZSL CD-Rom interactive resource for NZSL interpreting students.

Lynette graduated with a Master of Arts (M.A.) with Honours in Applied Language Studies in 2009. She investigated how NZSL interpreting students accessed NZSL learning opportunities in the social context. She also was the Compilation Editor for The Online Dictionary of NZSL project team at Victoria University of Wellington from 2009 to 2011.

The development of NZSL resources

1997 at Kelston Deaf Education Centre, launching a new video project.

TeachSign project team

TAB Book Project Committee. Penny Went, Mary Speirs, Dulcie McKie, Lynette Pivac, Ngaire Doherty. This group launched the Handbook in 1995.

Lynette has contributed greatly to the development of NZSL resources since the 1990s. In 1994, Lynette instigated the setting-up of the NZSL Tutors Auckland Branch (TAB) sub-committee to create a NZSL handbook for students. The project committee were Lynette Pivac, Penny Went, Dulcie McKie, Ngaire Doherty and Mary Speirs. They worked on this project regularly on Saturdays for one-and-half-years to create the Basic NZSL Handbook containing 480 signs.

Thereafter, Lynette set up a mail-order business for the TAB with the assistance of Carol Brady to distribute and sell the handbooks for the next six years. To lessen the workload, an agreement was made with New Zealand Deaf Association for them to sell the handbooks on behalf of TAB. These proceeds helped to create another NZSL handbook project in 1995. In 1999, Lynette also created the NZSL Tutors Handbook (guidelines) to give guidance to NZSL tutors teaching in adult community classes. In 2001, a third handbook called A Dictionary of Signed Synonyms consisting of 580 signs was finally published.

Lynette Pivac and her group (TAB Book Project Committee) set up a new separate charitable body in 2001 called Auckland Sign Language and Resources Charitable Trust for the purpose of caretaking monies for the development of more NZSL resources. This group was instrumental in initiating the NZSL Level One Resource Needs Survey (2012) project and sponsored several NZSL resource development projects based on this report. The TeachSign website and other NZSL teaching resources were launched in July 2014.

The promotion of NZSL teaching standards

NZSLTA Workshop, January 2001

Lynette has worked tirelessly behind the scenes over many years to promote a high standard of NZSL teaching. She was involved with the NZSL Tutors Auckland Branch (TAB) since its inception in 1993, trained NZSL tutors and organised NZSL camps over the years. She served on the New Zealand Sign Language Teachers Association (NZSLTA)’s executive committee for over 10 years from 1998 to 2008, becoming its president from 2002 to 2004. Lynette was instrumental in initiating many sign language projects such as the new NZSLTA website, the employment of the first National Administrator, a new NZSL Tutors/Teachers registration system, collaboration with DANZ and SLIANZ on NZSL training issues, a new national office at DANZ Auckland branch and new Penny Went scholarship for further training.

Lynette is currently on NZSLTA’s Registration Assessment Panel (RAP) to assess the qualification of NZSL teachers and tutors in New Zealand. She also provides expert advice on NZSL related teaching, resources issues and NZSL projects. Lynette was awarded life member of NZSLTA in 2008.