In pursuit of social justice
2 September 2022
A new annual award of $2500 will recognise an outstanding contribution to social justice.
Self-described legal subversive, Professor Emeritus Jane Kelsey, mentored and inspired thousands of students during her time at Waipapa Taumata Rau University of Auckland, and following her recent retirement, a new award has been launched to honour her legacy.
Te Whainga i te Tika Award for Social Justice will recognise a student-driven work or project that demonstrates the most outstanding contribution to social justice in Aotearoa New Zealand or internationally in that year.
Individuals, and groups made up of a majority of enrolled students, with the remainder former students of the University of Auckland, that can demonstrate their work and impact within the area of social justice are encouraged to apply.
Social justice is broadly defined, says Professor Kelsey, with applicants asked to outline their own understanding and vision of social justice and to describe how their project has contributed to achieving it.
We have deliberately gone for social justice, rather than anything specific to law, as some terms can have a narrowing effect, and I want this to be open to any individual or group of students pursuing social justice in any form.
Kelsey, who taught at the University of Auckland for four decades from 1979, is one of the country's most well-known critical legal academics, specialising in Te Tiriti o Waitangi, law and policy, and globalisation.
She advocates for students, scholars and academics to take their knowledge and research beyond lecture theatres, academic conferences and scholarly journals to also apply their academic skills, knowledge and power to advancing transformative justice.
This year, along with several pro-bono projects, the Professor Emeritus says she will be working hard to share information about the new award.
"Over my four decades at the University I have seen many student-led projects that would be well-deserving of this kind of support; some were in relation to migrant Pacific communities, there were women and gender projects, environment and climate-related pursuits, and Māori working to support whānau and communities."
In developing Te Whainga i te Tika, Professor Kelsey says she purposefully avoided tying it specifically to law.
"We have deliberately gone for social justice, rather than anything specific to law, as some terms can have a narrowing effect, and I want this to be open to any individual or group of students pursuing social justice in any form."
The new award is named after Te Whainga i te Tika - In Search of Justice, a 1987 report that Kelsey, together with other members of an advisory committee, researched and wrote for the Minister of Justice at the time, Geoffrey Palmer, as the government worked to develop a new approach to legal services.
The team, through working groups and hui, was able to draw on and report the experiences of people from a broad range of sectors around Aotearoa, particularly Māori and others with the least access to justice.
The report recognised that the legal structures and processes at that time were denying many people their right to access justice and it argued for positive and creative change.
It sought to create a framework to guide and actively advance the country’s transition from a monocultural, disempowering system of law to a Tiriti-based, empowering process of justice.
Like the eye-opening report, Professor Kelsey's academic activism in many different areas continues to be felt, and Te Whainga i te Tika Award for Social Justice will support social justice activists to also create waves of change and inspire others to do the same.
Applications are open until 23 September. Learn more and apply.
Sophie Boladeras | Media adviser
M: 022 4600 388