Last month we were delighted to officially kick of AWLA’s 2020 with the President’s function.
The highlight of the evening was Justice Walker, who was kind enough to give up her time in the middle of a hefty trial, to give us an insight on her path to the bench and her experiences on it. The number of questions from the audience demonstrated that we could have listened to Justice Walker all night, and we thank her for her time.
AWLA President for 2020, Laura Carter, also outlined AWLA’s plans for the year. Below is an excerpt from her speech.
Our theme for the year is 2020 vision: our future.
With this theme we are aiming to encapsulate some key themes – we want to work towards building a profession that is inclusive and supportive for all. We all know, particularly after the events of the last few years, that the profession has significant issues, and needs to change. For too long it has not been a safe and inclusive place for significant sectors of our community, and for the benefit of all, that needs to change. When we talk of ‘our future’ we are talking about a future that not only works for those for whom the legal profession has traditionally been a welcoming place, but also for those for whom it hasn’t – a profession for all genders, ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, family statuses, and communities.
A lot of work is being done in this area of cultural change within the profession, and we are excited to see this and hopeful about where it will go. For a start I would like to acknowledge the brave and strong women who have forced the profession to focus its minds on this issue. This includes the women from the summer clerk group at Russell McVeagh who spoke out, and women like Zoe Lawton who has continued to agitate in this area. These women have forced everyone in the legal world to acknowledge the elephant in the room, and for that we all owe them a debt of gratitude.
I am also grateful for women like Ana Lenard, Allanah Colley and Bridget McLay who have written the recently released Purea Nei report. This is a hefty piece of work, and it obviously took significant time and resources. The fact that these women were willing to invest that time, on top of their normal lives, is a testament to the desire and commitment to change. I think it will be a valuable resource as we continue to have these discussions in the profession.
I am pleased about and grateful for the work NZLS has undertaken in recent years and continues to progress. The work done by Kathryn Beck and Tiana Epati and their team, through the review of NZLS procedures, the Rules review, and the Culture Change Taskforce provides hope for top down change as well.
So this year AWLA hopes to do all it can to help progress and contribute to this conversation that the profession is having. We hope to be able to identify and advance practical solutions and assistance that can have a real, positive impact for women (and everyone) in the profession. We know that some firms are doing good things, and we hope to be able to recognise this, and draw from these examples to help firms who are not providing the same benefits or doing the same good work.
Fundamentally, AWLA’s activities this year will be focussed on the same two key areas as usual: advocacy and networking. In the advocacy space we will continue to respond to issues as they arise, and we would also like to focus on issues like the promotion of women, the briefing of women barristers, and parental leave policies.
On the networking front, we will continue to run our successful mentoring programme, as well as the Chance Coffees initiative that so many of our members have enjoyed. We also have a great line up of events planned for the year, including one where we can get to know some of our new women QCs, a very exciting event in conjunction with the IAWJ conference, an event around the election, an event with Pacifica women lawyers, and an event focussed on mental health.
Another key area we want to focus on this year is developing a sustainable plan for funding and offering the AWLA scholarships. We are very proud of the scholarship and writing prize we currently offer (as well as running the moot), and we would like to build on this and offer another scholarship, focussed on school leavers from socio-economic communities for whom law school will be a financial challenge. However to offer that, we also need a sustainable source of funding to ensure we can continue to offer it for many years to come, and establishing this will be a major piece of work for the Association.
Finally, I would like to thank you for being members, and encourage you to encourage your friends and colleagues to also become members. We are very pleased to have our new website live, and we hope this has made it easy for you all to sign up as members and to events.
I would also like to encourage you to contact me, to discuss anything you wish. You are our members, we exist for you, and we want to know how we can best provide what you want from the Association.
Thank you all for being here, your support for AWLA is deeply appreciated, and we are so pleased to be able to share with you what we hope to be able to achieve for you this year. In particular I’d like to take a moment to thank in particular the senior members of the profession who are here, or who have emailed me to give their apologies. Without the support of these senior members, many of whom are founding members, past committee members, and longstanding members of AWLA, we wouldn’t be nearly as effective, so we are very grateful for their support.