Telethons were run nationwide in New Zealand in 1975-79, 1981, 1983, 1985, 1988, 1990-91, 1993 and 2009. The 24-hour fundraiser would take place in regions around New Zealand and was broadcast on TV. Viewers would be shown coverage of the telethon nearest to their location. Smaller regions would typically see coverage of the telethon in one of the main centres (Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch or Dunedin, and it was in those areas where Deaf people were invited to participate). Telethons were hosted in large exhibition halls and indoor stadiums as the public soon arrived by the thousands to be seen on television and to watch the entertainment live.

  • TV/Media

Telethon 1981

Telethon 1985. The Christchurch Silent Singers, “When a Child is Born”.

Telethon 1981 was for the International Year of the Disabled. The Sign Singers, formed the previous year, were invited to perform at the telethon, and this gave a huge public awareness boost not just for the group but for sign language and the Deaf community as a whole. They repeated their attendance in 1985, where the Christchurch Silent Signers also performed in Christchurch, as they did again in 1990.

The 1981 Telethon, during which Bruce McHattie worked 24 sponsored hours, contributed $800,000 towards communication services for Deaf people, most of which went to establishing the Teletext service and related hardware. Telethon 1985 drew the highest total donation of any NZ telethon, with over $6 million raised.

Telethon 1981 – Money for Teletext

The Sign Singers at the 1981 Telethon in Auckland.

Sign singing at the 1981 Telethon in Palmerston North.

The 1981 Telethon, during which Bruce McHattie worked 24 sponsored hours, contributed $800,000 towards communication services for Deaf people, most of which went to establishing the Teletext service and related hardware. Telethon 1985 drew the highest total donation of any NZ telethon, with over $6 million raised.

NB. SignDNA has a video of Bruce McHattie speaking at the 1981 Telethon. We are looking for volunteers to add transcribe and add captions.