Geneva Hakaraia-Tino speaks up for non-verbal New Zealanders

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Geneva Hakaraia-Tino has been awarded the the supreme honour at the annual Attitude Awards. She spoke to Te Kāea about her journey and plans for the future.

Speaking up for non-verbal New Zealanders and helping them find their voice.

“As a non-verbal, many people often make the assumption that I must be mentally disabled so it creates a barrier for them to feel comfortable enough to have a conversation with me. This really motivates me to lead a successful life and prove to people that I am just like anyone else regardless of having a disability,” she says.

Geneva has athetoid cerebral palsy which impacts her verbal capacity and physical movement. Despite this, she has recently completed a Bachelor of Communications degree at AUT and is studying Te Reo Māori. 

“It is not until people find out what I'm doing with my life that their attitudes change and they realise there is really nothing wrong with my mental capability.”

Geneva took out the supreme honour at the Attitude Awards as well as the spirit award.

"We are just like any other person regardless of our disability. Physically we may be restricted on what we can and cannot do but mentally there is nothing wrong with us."

She says the support of the whānau and community build a foundation for her to want to give back to individuals.

“Being an ambassador for TalkLink means that I can pave the way for future generations and ensure that their voice can be heard in society.”

Currently fronting a campaign with TalkLink to develop a kiwi accent for communication devices, her next goal is to add Te Reo to the devices.

“We are in the process of investigating the feasibility of this concept which will then take a further 2-3 years to develop once we have funding for the project.”

Geneva graduates with her Bachelor of Communications degree in December.