Kia ora, my name is Simran Gill, and I am a BA/LLB (Hons) student from the University of Auckland. I was lucky enough to be selected for a scholarship to attend the prestigious International Association of Women Judges biannual conference held in Auckland between 7th-9th May 2021.
As a soon-to-be Graduate, this conference has been the ideal start to my legal career as a practicing barrister and solicitor in New Zealand. Firstly, the conference allowed me to meet a number of like-minded law students from a range of Universities around New Zealand. This was a great experience, as it allowed us to compare our studies and discuss our future career paths in the legal field.
A particularly memorable part of the conference was our time at the Ōrākei Marae. I was touched by the beautiful culture of the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei iwi and felt both honoured and blessed to spend the day in their sacred Marae. The first-hand recounts and stories shared by the iwi depicted the realities of the Treaty of Waitangi. They provided a greater understanding of the implications of this ‘partnership’ between Māori and the Crown. The panel discussion touched on the importance of the executive, legislative and judicial branches in ensuring the injustices against Māori are acknowledged and rectified. A quote from Professor Claire Charters was particularly memorable, the idea that “Judges do not undermine their own authority when acknowledging Māori self-determination”. This is exemplified through the establishment (and success) of the Rangatahi Courts, which provide a space for iwi and the Crown to come together and discuss the best ‘collective’ response for a young person’s offending. Associate Professor Val Napoleon (Canada) and Hon. Fleur Kingham (Australia) further reinforced the role of female legal professionals in promoting
and advocating for indigenous rights. It was very enlightening to learn how female Judges worldwide acknowledge and implement the values and beliefs of the indigenous peoples of their nations.
As a first-generation Kiwi and the first of my family to attend University, it was reassuring to hear about the growing number of females in Judicial roles around the globe. Hearing from Hon. Chief Justice Meaza Ashenafi (President of the Federal Supreme Court of Ethiopia) and Hon. Sutatip Yuthayotin (Judge of the Office of the President of the Supreme Court - Thailand) was inspiring. The role of female Judges in ensuring access to justice for women is an ideal that will stick with me throughout my legal career. Furthermore, the speeches from Hon. Anisa Rasooli and Hon. Nafisa Kabuli depict the varying experiences and lives of female Judges and the continuing global struggle to uphold and implement female equality.
Overall, the International Association of Women Judges conference was a truly memorable experience that will stick with me throughout my legal career. I appreciate the work of this organisation and its ability to bring together female legal professionals at every level of their career (from recent Graduates to Justices of the Supreme Court!) to discuss the most pressing domestic and international issues. I am honoured to have heard from and met so many renowned female legal professionals and am eager to commence my legal career and put all I have learnt into effect.