This time last year the Wellington-based network of young thinkers JustSpeak didn’t exist. Yet on Tuesday night this week, the group launched their first position paper, Māori and the Criminal Justice System: A Youth Perspective to a crowd of Wellingtonians with the help of some of New Zealand’s most distinguished speakers on Māori Justice issues.

Staff from the McGuinness Institute and other attendees were treated to several speakers including Hon Dr Pita Sharples, Justice Joseph Williams, Moana Jackson and Sir Eddie Taihakuerei Durie. Each of them drew from their wealth of both personal and professional experience in the criminal and Māori justice areas to highlight some of the core problems in our current system.

The issues discussed were wide ranging, such as the systemic bias against Māori in the justice system and the attitudes of the public in regards to criminal justice.  Questions were raised about the role of the Crown and government in addressing these problems and how young people, like those involved with JustSpeak, can help to overcome some of the significant barriers to justice in New Zealand.

JustSpeak members, Tai Ahu and Sarah Kuper provided the audience an overview of the group’s position paper, which was distributed at the event, and the evening was rounded off with the chance to discuss many of the ideas raised.

The remarkable line-up of panellists and the full crowd packed into Te Puni Kōkori house should serve as a testament to the JustSpeak collective and their penchant for prioritising ideals and continually enquiring what steps need to be taken. The group is a growing network of young people who have an energy and commitment towards a more just Aotearoa. They meet regularly to learn about, discuss and be heard on criminal justice issues, particularly those that are relevant to young people.  Each month they host a forum with a focus on an important topic, and the release of this position paper came about as a result of one such meeting late last year.

JustSpeak is particularly concerned about pre-election political rhetoric focusing on the idea of ‘getting tough on law and order’. The challenge however, is to think critically over the long term, and ask what strategies we should be looking at in order to make real change in the criminal justice system?

On Wednesday 9 May from 6 to 8pm, the group will play host to five MPs from a spectrum of political parties, and pose the question to them:  ‘Do our politicians have the courage to abandon the ‘law and order’ auction?’ Attending politicians will be Chester Borrows (National Party Associate Justice Minister and Minister for the Courts); Charles Chauvel (Labour Party Justice Spokesperson); Meteria Turei (Green Party Co-leader and Social Equity Spokesperson); Hone Harawira (Mana Party leader); and  Asenati Lole-Taylor (New Zealand First Corrections Spokesperson).

The event is at Main Hall, St John’s in the City, Corner of Willis St and Dixon Street and is open to everyone, with free pizza provided.

Posted by: Lydia Nobbs

Last Updated 5 years by admin