Noeline (Patty) Still (born 1932) received the M.N.Z.M in 2003 for her involvement in many activities and initiatives within the Deaf community. Patty was recognised for her efforts in promoting New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) through her teaching of NZSL, and her work raising public awareness via her performances with the Christchurch Silent Singers group. Patty was actively involved in the Deaf Society of Canterbury as Editor of the monthly newsletter and as Chairperson and Secretary of the Deaf Senior Citizens Club. Also recognised was her selflessness in supporting Deaf people with their literacy needs and visiting older Deaf people when they were ill.

  • Life Stories/People

Patty and the Silent Singers, 1978-1990

The biggest show put on by the Silent Singers was at the Hearing Association Annual Conference, Russelly Hotel, Christchurch, where they got an overwhelming reception from the audience. Claire Liddicoat, Patty Still, Barbara Herrick, Joy Avis, Sandy Matheson, Lorna Overend, Ellen Donaldson, Jo Hussey.

1990 Telethon, sign singing ‘Rock around the Clock’. The car was made by Shaun Fahey.

1989 World Games for the Deaf, Christchurch. The final performance of the Silent Singers was at the Queen Elizabeth II Park. Jo Smith, Patty Still and Joy Avis’s beautiful costumes were made by a Deaf dressmaker, Polly Fechney.

Patty was a member of the Christchurch Silent Signers, one of two main sign singing groups. At its peak, the group performed an average of two shows a month, for conferences, weddings, memorial services, as well as appearing in shopping malls around Christchurch and the Town Hall. The group appeared in four Telethons in 1981, 1983, 1985 and 1988.

The group performed at the World Deaf Games in Christchurch, 1989 where they were televised live around the world signing ‘God Defend New Zealand.’
Patty and the Silent Singers did much to promote Deaf Awareness and the visual nature of sign language in a time where Total Communication had been introduced in deaf education.

Patty and New Zealand Sign Language

Telethon 1985.

1993, Patty running a NZSL class at Canterbury Deaf Society along with Jo Smith.

Patty with her Certificate in Deaf Studies from Victoria University.

Patty got a taste of teaching NZSL to 100 hearing volunteers for the World Deaf Games in 1989. She went on to teach classes for the next 20 years in the Christchurch community.

Patty was the oldest student in the first intake of students for the Deaf Studies course at Victoria University in 1987, at age 65.

From 1990-1992, Patty was the Christchurch Regional Editor for the first NZ Sign Language dictionary. Patty and her husband Tom met with deaf volunteers to film and perform specific regional signs to be included in the dictionary. It was a big feat, as Patty had to receive video tapes from Wellington and send Christchurch tapes back as well as do all the paperwork.

Patty and the Deaf Society of Canterbury

Christchurch Deaf Club’s 40th Jubilee. Patty and her husband Tom, with Neville Pickering, Mayor of Christchurch; Norman Kirk and wife Ruth, leader of opposition (later Prime Minister of New Zealand).

1986, Patty with badminton trophies.

2001, New Zealand Open Ten Pin Bowling – Masters.

In 1950, Patty was the only female Committee member of the Society aged 17. Patty continued her involvement in a period spanning over sixty years. Activities included working in the Deaf club café on Friday nights, doing the spring cleaning, promoting female causes in the Deaf Women’s group and being involved in sporting committees under the Society and the NZ Deaf Sports Association including Women’s Basketball, Badminton and Tenpin bowling.

In her book, Dugdale (2007) explains that Patty represented the Society in the 1980 Advisory Council for the Community Welfare of Disabled Persons, the only deaf person among 20 professionals. There was no interpreter. Patty supported the Council with their report on Deaf needs. The Council wanted to call the report ‘Deaf and Deprived.’ Patty suggested a better title ‘Deafness, the invisible handicap.’ This became the NZAD slogan for the next few years.

Patty was also Editor of the Canterbury Deaf Society monthly newsletter on and off from 1975-2009. Patty’s first attempt to make a newsletter was using a printer with black powder. At the end of the task she remembers Jo Smith (nee Hussey) and herself looking like coalminers because they got more powder on them than paper! By 2009, the DEAF CANterbury News was a 36 page booklet and Patty trained many Deaf newsletter teams in the skills needed to produce the newsletter.

Note: This page was last updated 2019. Contributions are welcomed.