Funding for research into Pacific experiences of the criminal justice system

A research project that aims to capture the experiences of Pacific people in New Zealand’s Criminal Justice System (CJS), has received substantial funding of more than $250,000 from the Michael & Suzanne Borrin Foundation.

Professional Teaching Fellow Litia Tuiburelevu

Pacific Peoples and the Criminal Justice System in Aotearoa, New Zealand: Past, Present and Future, is a two-stage research project led by legal scholar Litia Tuiburelevu, a Professional Teaching Fellow at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Law.

Using a Pacfic cultural lens, Tuiburelevu’s study will specifically look at the issue of Pacific overrepresentation in the CJS and what individual, structural and cultural determinants contribute to this phenomenon.

The lived experience of individuals within the criminal justice system and the literature tell us that the system is institutionally racist and fundamentally broken.

Professional Teaching Fellow Litia Tuiburelevu.

“The lived experience of individuals within the CJS and the literature tell us that the system is institutionally racist and fundamentally broken,” says Tuiburelevu.

“In the CJS, Pasifika peoples are overrepresented as offenders and victims of crime. As of 2020, Pasifika peoples comprise just under eight percent of the total population, but a little over 12 percent of the prison population,” she says.

“I want to acknowledge the work of Māori legal scholar, Moana Jackson, and his ground-breaking report, He Whaipaanga Hou, which is the blueprint for this kind of research,” says Tiuburelevu.

“The project, which will take place over 18 months, seeks to explore the same issues, but from a Pasifika framework,” she says.

It will be undertaken in accordance with Pacific research methodologies and values, recognising the importance of communal relationships, reciprocity, holism and building research capacity for Pacific legal scholarship.

The findings are intended for Aotearoa’s diasporic Pacific communities, especially those within the CJS to ensure their voices are at the forefront of any proposed reforms.

Tuiburelevu teaches the elective paper Pasifika Peoples and the Law: Critical Perspectives, with a focus on critical race theory and minority rights. She also oversees the Pacific Academic Support Programme. Prior to working at the University, she was a solicitor at Meredith Connell.

The Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation believe law is essential to a flourishing society – one that is just, inclusive, tolerant and free. Founded by the late Judge Ian Borrin, the Foundation supports legal research, education and scholarship that contributes to their vision for Aotearoa New Zealand.

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