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Totara Village provides a safe, nurturing environment for up to 23 Deaf and Hard of Hearing residents who attend Kelston Deaf Education Centre provisions at Kelston Intermediate School, Kelston Girls College, Kelston Boys High School or the Tu Kokiri Programme. Students range in age from 11 to 21 years old.

The Archibald Road site was completely rebuilt during 2015. Three cottages became one residential whare in 2016. The new purpose built residence has simple adaptations to make them suitable for Deaf youth to develop and experience interdependence in preparation for adulthood. Each bedroom door has a flashing light doorbell, all rooms are equipped with flashing light fire alarms and vibrating smoke alarms for every bed. The latest communication technology is available so students can easily keep in touch with family and friends at home.

Students range in age from 11 to 21 years old. Students are carefully assigned to individual cottages based on age, gender and maturity level. The Village is staffed by Residential Social Workers, a large number of whom are Deaf.

Many of the Village staff are Deaf. Some use Sign Language and some are verbal. At any one time the Village students will also be using Sign Language or spoken English. Staff encourage and actively support the use of New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) and a greater understanding of Deaf culture.

Totara Village staff are committed to working alongside students to foster interdependence, self-awareness, and self-sufficiency so that they can become confident members of their family, school, Deaf community and general community.


This programme has been created to compliment the academic work Village residents complete in school. It is designed to prepare students for entering the workforce and living independently.

The programme has three levels and a student entering the Village may have already mastered many aspects of level one. Others may benefit from beginning on the first step of level one.

The levels are designed to follow on from each other, but a student does not have to complete all of level one before they may move to level two. If a student is already proficient in some aspects of the program they may move ahead a level in those aspects and also spend time at the lower level mastering those skills.

Life Skill goals are recorded and monitored in a student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP). Mastery of a topic / level is achieved by staff observations, conversations with students or questions relating to specific areas of learning. Anecdotal records are kept in the student’s file.

IEP goals underpin learning and development targets and ORS funding allocation. Parents, whānau, the Combined Board of Trustees and the Ministry of Education are informed of current student achievement and next steps in classroom programmes.

The program covers:

  • Nutrition
  • Using an interpreter
  • Travel
  • Personal safety
  • Technology
  • Leisure
  • Emergency procedures
  • Clothing
  • Hygiene and appearance
  • Self-management
  • Teamwork
  • Social courtesies
  • Effective communication
  • Learning / study skills
  • Money / purchasing
  • Community roles / responsibilities
  • Career exploration and planning
  • Resource management
  • Rights and responsibilities
  • Performance and self-assessment


Totara Village opens for up to 16 weekends a year during term time. The popular “24/7 Weekend” option adds value to the weeks’ programme by letting students put their newly acquired Life Skills to practice.

Alternative weekends give students time to spend with their families, remaining connected with their local communities as well as opportunities to spend time with the wider Auckland Deaf Community at organised events. These skills transfer into adult life, where students need to be able to organise and participate in their own recreation.

Village students take increasing responsibility for planning social outings in 24/7 weekends, including which activities to take part in, travel to and from events, budgeting to cover the costs incurred, and the logistics of organising a large group of teenagers with varying ideas.

Village staff measure students’ increasing confidence in planning and leading social and recreational activities against the Life Skills Programme and students’ Individual Education Plan (IEP).

Parents are encouraged to be involved with 24/7 weekends by spending a night or weekend at the Village and taking part in recreational activities with their child and their peers.