As the Pacific Lawyers Association approaches its 22nd year representing the interests of Pacific Lawyers in Aotearoa New Zealand, it is timely to draw awareness to the objectives and work of this group.
Member Lawyer and education advocate for Pacific Lawyers, Wiliame Gucake, shares his insights into what the Association offers and why its continued growth is vital to Pasifika across the motu.
First and foremost, Mr Gucake points to the disproportionate number of Pacific people requiring legal services in Aotearoa compared to the number of Pasifika lawyers. "Essentially, Pacific people are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and underrepresented in the legal profession. This significantly impacts their access to justice, especially where language and culture are barriers to seeking services."
Mr Gucake says it is therefore imperative that there is a Pacific voice in the legal profession. The Pacific Lawyers Association is one avenue for advocacy, especially around law reform on Pacific issues. For instance, the Association last year drew attention to the issue of racial profiling of Pacific lawyers at court by conducting a survey of its members.
"The overarching ethos of the Association is to provide fellowship and mutual support for Pacific lawyers in the profession in Aotearoa." Tangible outcomes of this are evidenced by some of the main activities of the Association and include;
- Training and Education: Access to free (or heavily discounted) legal training sessions which provide CPD hours but also showcase the career journeys of Pacific lawyers
- Social: Professional networking and collegiality events
- Nominations: the Association is often asked to put forward names of Pacific lawyers for various appointments, to lead training sessions, and referrals for legal work – members are referred for such opportunities
A major focus of work by the Association is on continued education through supporting law students and providing scholarships and prizes through NZCLE and tertiary institutions. The Association also works closely in nurturing relationships with valued learning and research partners like the Borrin Foundation championing the advancement of Pasifika lawyers and students through further education and research fellowships.
The Association welcomes all legal professionals, academics and students interested in Pacific issues to connect with the Association and help make a difference in outcomes for Pasifika lawyers and Pacific people in Aotearoa.
How to join?
The Association charges a nominal annual membership fee of $50.00 per year. Registration and further information can be found here.