Hemi Hema (QSM)

Hemi Hema received the Queen’s Service Medal (Q.S.M) in 2012 for his services to the Maori Deaf community. Along with Karen Pointon in the same year, Hemi was the first Maori Deaf person to receive such an honour.

Hemi and Deaf Aotearoa

Hemi was the Southern Regional Maori Liaison Officer for the Deaf Association of New Zealand in Christchurch until 2009, when he became the President of Deaf Aotearoa, a role he held until 2011. Hemi has worked with Maori Deaf and their families to develop links between whanau and the marae and is dedicated to driving change to improve the outcomes for Maori Deaf in Aotearoa.

Hemi was involved in the production of the New Zealand National Anthem DVD, God Defend New Zealand, performed in three national languages.

Hemi on Te Puni Kokiri

Hemi was interviewed by Te Puni Kokiri on his views in supporting Maori Deaf. There is research that shows many Maori Deaf are isolated from their iwi due to difficulties in communication. Hemi feels this means whakapapa and other knowledge cannot be passed on. Hemi is determined to encourage whanau to learn sign language and involve their Deaf members in discussions of such tikanga as tangi, whānau assets and developments on the marae.

Kokiri article (abridged):

“Last year on Queen’s Birthday weekend, Hamilton man Hemi Hema was honoured for his tireless work advocating for opportunities for Māori Deaf. This Queen’s Birthday weekend he was showing that his great work continues – facilitating a hui for Māori Deaf from throughout Aotearoa aimed at focusing on new beginnings for their community.

In supporting the hui, Te Puni Kōkiri acknowledges the potential of all Māori.

“We recognise that our whanaunga have needs as deaf people, and also as Māori,” says Te Puni Kōkiri Deputy Chief Executive Herewini Te Koha.

“For Ngāti Turi we wanted to support their work to identify and address their dual needs,” he says.

Initiatives discussed at the hui included the need to increase the number of tri-lingual interpreters and to build on advances in technology to benefit Māori Deaf.

Hemi lists technology giving more access to information in New Zealand sign language as one of the key changes in society that has helped Deaf people in recent years.

And indeed, it is the email technology that enabled Kōkiri to interview Hemi ahead of the hui at Te Tokonganui a noho Marae at Te Kuiti.

It is important to Hemi that the hui was held on a marae, as one of its key aims was to work through ways which marae and Deaf communities could work together as one.

Research released two years ago shows that many Māori Deaf felt isolated from their iwi – due partly through being sent away to school, and because of their whānau’s inability to communicate with them to pass on whakapapa and other learnings.

“We would like our whānau to be able to support us more, including learning sign language,” says Hemi.

“Whānau have a role to support their Deaf whānau members and ensure they understand who they are, what their whakapapa is on both their parents’ sides, which iwi they belong to, which marae they belong to and the protocols on those marae. Who are their kaumatua?

“You should try and involve your Deaf whānau in decision making and discussions around things like tangi, whānau assets and developments on the marae.

“And if your Deaf whānau have been gifted land or other assets – don’t take it away from them, but work alongside them to help show them what to do. Get professionals in to help if you need – like interpreters.”

Full article: http://www.tpk.govt.nz/en/mo-te-puni-kokiri/kokiri-magazine/kokiri-29-2013/maori-deaf-gather#.VVHahpSUdFM