New re­cruit signs on in style

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By RHI­AN­NON McCON­NELL

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.

Photo: RHI­AN­NON McCON­NELL

Handy work: Luke Ron­aki is flu­ent in

sign lan­guage.

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