Courtney Palmer

I was lucky enough to receive a scholarship to attend the International Association of Women Judges’ Biennial Conference last weekend. As a final year student heading into the legal profession next year, this was a truly inspiring and eye-opening experience. Hearing about the amazing things that these wonderful ladies from all over the world have achieved is an experience I will not forget.

The main thing that stood out to me at the Conference was the feeling of support and sisterhood. I have found that at university it can often feel like you are looking at concepts from above and failing to see how what you are learning impacts on the real lives of people around you. However, the Conference had a feeling of personal connectedness and a few speakers even brought tears to my eyes through the retelling of their personal experiences. I would like to mention three speakers whose life stories have left me thinking of them and the issues they discussed. Firstly, Ms Sharon Hawke and her Whānau who spoke at Ōrākei Marae on the first day of the Conference. Sharon told the story of her iwi Ngāti Whātua whose lands at Bastion Point were taken by the Crown for use under the Public Works Act and were not returned. Sharon told stories of her parents and grandparents and their fight to retain their land at Bastion Point. In 1977, Sharon, who was a young girl at the time, and her Whānau were a part of the 506-day peaceful protest at Bastion Point. The Crown removed the protestors from Bastion point and arrested many. Sharon was one of those arrested. It was heart-breaking to hear about the things which Sharon and the rest of Ngāti Whātua have been through to reclaim their land from the Crown. I sincerely hope that their land is returned one day soon.

Secondly, two Supreme Court judges, Hon. Anisa Rasooli and Hon. Nafisa Kabuli, spoke about their experiences as women judges in Afghanistan. The women in Afghanistan are heavily oppressed and risk their lives every day to have an education and a career. It was shocking to hear about the death of their two sister judges who were shot on the way to work at the courts. We were also notified of the tragic shooting of female students at a school in Afghanistan which happened the weekend of the Conference. The stories of these two inspiring ladies made me realise how lucky we are as women in New Zealand where we can have an education and a career without having to fear for our lives. There was a feeling of sisterhood and support between the judges of all countries throughout the Conference and it made me realise how much women in countries like New Zealand need to support women in countries such as Afghanistan.

Thank you for a wonderful opportunity to hear the experiences of women judges from around the world. It was truly inspiring.
Ngā mihi.