First and foremost, the biggest thank you to the IAWJ for allowing me to attend the conference on scholarship. This opportunity has been incredibly influential for both my career aspirations and for my sense of self and personal development.
When looking at the lineup of speakers prior to the conference, I did not expect the highlight of the weekend to be the panel of young advocates: Pita, Fili, Sarah, and Grace. As a young queer person, balancing my identity alongside my ambitions of working in the legal profession has not always been easy. A quote from Pita at the very top of my notepad states “success because of, not in spite of, who I am”. The content that I retained the most was emotive and powerful statements of ambition and empowerment, rather than cases or legislation I noted down for potential study reference. Being surrounded by individuals that are as kind and passionate as they are skilled and articulate was very empowering. I have been told in the past that I am too emotive to succeed in the legal profession, and the community I encountered at the IAWJ conference was a firm rejection of this bulldog lawyer stereotype.
I also feel very lucky to have been in an environment that sought biculturalism in every aspect of the programme. This is the takeaway that I am most grateful for. The powhiri and the subsequent discussion of indigenous issues and rights in New Zealand were framed in a way that was accessible and celebrated an ongoing journey of learning and incorporating tikanga and te reo Māori. The continuous and genuine commitment to te āo Māori has provided me with tools and understandings that I am adamant will now be a fundamental part of my practice and research going forward.
Going forward, I feel well-equipped with more connections, more empathy, and more tools that I am going to use wherever I end up. It is exciting to be a part of the IAWJ alumni and to be a representative of the association’s kaupapa of equal justice for all. Thank you again to the IAWJ for this opportunity and to Ngāti Whātua for their hospitality and knowledge.
Maeve Burns, University of Canterbury