Can we create a fair and just society that upholds the rights of all people?
“Access to justice for all” is a lost dream for New Zealand.
Today it is not only the poor but the elderly, those on fixed incomes and small businesses who often cannot afford their day in court. Access to justice has been described as the single greatest issue facing the legal profession today.
Systemic social poverty and abuse is a major problem in New Zealand. This country has unacceptably high rates of family violence, including violence against women and elder abuse. It has been estimated that family violence affects one in seven New Zealanders and the problem is not confined to one sector of society. In 2014 the New Zealand Police carried out over 100,000 investigations into family violence. More than a quarter of call-outs came from women living in households where the annual income was more than $100,000.
University of Auckland academics are engaged in a range of social justice projects. One example is the Family Violence Death Review Committee where Auckland Law School staff have led the governance team. This independent committee was set up to advise the Health Quality & Safety Commission on how to reduce mortality arising from family violence. It is the only organisation in New Zealand that sits across the entire multi-agency response to family violence, reviewing original agency records in order to document what is actually happening in the systemic response to family violence and suggesting reforms.
In 2016, the committee proposed the development of a family violence integrated safety response system, with different multi-agency safety responses appropriate to different levels of risk and need. It also suggested that we must have a more accurate understanding of all the contributing factors to family violence if we are to respond to it effectively. One result is the piloting of a new Integrated Safety Response model in Christchurch to help protect victims of family violence. This model is an opportunity for government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to collectively change the way they respond.
The New Zealand Centre for Human Rights Law, Policy and Practice, hosted by the Auckland Law School, provides a focal point for human rights research, education, community service and a range of human rights activities in New Zealand and the Asia Pacific region. It advocates for those shut out of the legal aid process – the elderly in rest homes, the disabled, Māori, refugees and many more.
From genocide to human trafficking to family and sexual violence, human rights abuses are still ugly constants in today’s world. We have a complex system of human rights laws and institutions, both internationally and within national borders. Yet the rights of people continue to come under threat. Initiatives like the Centre for Human Rights Law will help educate people and equip them to be a part of ensuring the law responds better to those who live in the shadow of human rights abuses.
Many of our students participate in Community Law Internships during the course of their undergraduate degree. In Auckland, despite measures like the legal aid scheme and community law centres, many people still cannot afford a lawyer. Pro bono work by lawyers, assisted by our student interns, helps to address the gap between public resources and unmet legal needs.
The Equal Justice Project, formed at the beginning of 2005, further encourages voluntary work by Auckland law students. The Project works closely with the faculty, community groups and the profession, helping to run free legal clinics at an Auckland community law service, preparing and conducting legal education workshops at high schools and assisting in real case-work for NGOs and charitable foundations.
We believe the University is well placed to lead the way in human rights law, for the future of New Zealand, and indeed the world. What would strengthen our capabilities and provide a centre of focus for our activities in this vital area is a Chair in Human Rights Law. The holder of the Chair would provide strategic direction for human rights law in New Zealand and would be instrumental in shaping the human rights policy and practice of tomorrow.
Will you help us make our justice system available to all?
Find out more
To find out more about how you can help, contact Catherine Davies.
Catherine Davies, Development Manager, Faculty of Law
PH: + 64 9 923 7599 | Ext: 84490