New recruit signs on in style
One of New Zealand’s newest police recruits has a unique background – his first language is sign language, even though he can hear.
Luke Ronaki, 22, was one of 76 new constables who graduated from the Royal New Zealand Police College last Thursday.
Born to deaf parents, Ronaki taught himself to speak by watching television and interacting with extended family.
‘‘I learnt a lot of independence with it. From a really young age I was on the phone doing all the calling for [my parents],’’ he said.
By 8 he was calling power companies about bills, and by 10 he knew how to budget and talk to lawyers.
‘‘ Having to interpret for my parents all the time has contributed to my work ethic.’’
Brought up in Papakura, he and his three siblings, all hearing, at times used the situation to their advantage.
‘‘We were good schemers. We would plan things without our parents knowing.’’
Ronaki, who had dreamed of being in the police since he was 17, said his sign language would come in handy in his job.
‘‘ By having it as my first language, I will be able to connect with that section of the community.’’
Despite having left home, Ronaki still has a strong relationship with New Zealand’s deaf community and signs fluently.
‘‘It gets a bit rusty, but you never forget it.’’
His parents attended his graduation and an interpreter signed for them. His mother, who was born deaf, recently had a cochlear implant.
‘‘I yelled out to her and she turned around. It was the first time that she had ever heard my voice.’’
Ronaki is being posted to Counties Manukau District.
Two other members of the police can sign. One is based in Wellington and the other in Auckland.
Handy work: Luke Ronaki is fluent in