Sign for New Zealand and Aotearoa  

I remember when I first saw (what I thought was) the new sign for NZ.  I was so excited, it’s such a lovely sign, it flows so beautifully and visually depicts the two islands of NZ.

Because it was only shown to me – not explained – I assumed it was the new sign and would replace the existing sign of N-Z. So, I taught my students at the time this sign for New Zealand.

It would be a few months later that I would speak to a Māori Deaf person who was able to shed some light on this sign and its intended use/context.

The ‘new’ sign is for Aotearoa, not New Zealand. Aotearoa is the Māori name for the land known as ‘New Zealand’ and the signs for Aotearoa and N-Z are distinctly different.

N-Z is still the sign we use for the nation known as ‘New Zealand’.

The Aotearoa sign is used in contexts related to Te Ao Māori or the ‘Māori world view’, and when used for organisations that specifically have ‘Aotearoa’ in their name (such as Deaf Aotearoa).  

It is quite common now for both Māori and non-Māori to refer to their country as ‘Aotearoa, New Zealand’ as well as commonly use Māori language and ideas/concepts from the Māori world in their daily life. There is also a movement to return the official name of the country to ‘Aotearoa’, so the use of this sign is being seen more frequently.

It is my understanding that one would only sign/mouth N-Z for most all contexts relating to the nation of ‘New Zealand’ and its government etc.  

But the sign Aotearoa would be done so while mouthing the word ‘Aotearoa’ – not mouthing the word ‘New Zealand’.

There was also some confusion around the use of the Indigenous sign for AUSTRALIA a few years back. I still see some trepidation and confusion around this (See blog: Sign for ‘Australia’).

Again, this is my understanding of what was explained to me. As always, it is good practice to clarify for yourself when you should be in a position to meet any Deaf Māori/New Zealanders.

Hope you found this handy and keep up your Awesome Auslan!

Disclaimer: This information is entirely subjective and based on my personal experience, interpretation and understanding of the subject matter.