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2018 District Court Judges’ Triennial Conference

Speaking with a New Zealand accent

District Court judges constantly try to keep abreast of the latest research and initiatives across the array of social areas that intersect with the delivery of justice. Once every three years these continuing education efforts culminate in the whole District Court bench meeting for a national conference.

The conference allows judges to hear and draw inspiration from fresh ideas, experiences and perspectives, and to consider how to apply those new insights in their courtrooms.

“The law speaking with a New Zealand accent” was the kaupapa of the 2018 Triennial Conference in Rotorua. The four-day forum heard from a diverse range of speakers on topics acutely relevant to modern judging, particularly transformative justice.

The Chief Justice, Dame Sian Elias, opened the conference and the theme was developed by 18 other speakers. Sessions focused on both judicial and community leadership in the justice system, and on better understanding the dimensions of the complex lives of those who appear before the courts. Speakers included tangata whenua and Pasifika academics in law, demography and business, and champions of te reo Māori and te ao Māori, as well as the Chief District Court Judge, Jan-Marie Doogue, Senior Courts judges and District Court judicial colleagues involved in developing transformative justice.

Image of Rawiri Pene, the Pou Oranga of the Alcohol & Other Drug Treatment Court

Rāwiri Pene, the Pou Oranga of the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court, addresses the Triennial Conference.

Transformative Justice in Action

The Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court

The work of the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court (AODTC) was featured for its achievements in transformative justice. Judge Ema Aitken and Judge Lisa Tremewan founded the AODTC in 2012 in Waitakere and Auckland. Both judges spoke about the court’s work tackling the pervasiveness of alcohol or drug addiction as a driver of offending. The rehabilitative pathway through the AODTC is intensively judicially monitored, and enabled by existing Sentencing Act 2002 processes.

Image of Judge Aitken speaking.

Judge Ema Aitken

As part of the same session, judges heard from four graduates of the court. Each recounted how going through the AODTC process was not easy, but by working through the court-ordered programmes they all graduated from the court sober and drug free, and have not offended since. This particularly inspiring session demonstrated the power of transformative justice.

Image of AODT session.

Graduates of the AODTC

Strength and leadership in Maori and Pasifika Communities

The philosophy of wayfinders

Image of Dr C Spiller.

Dr Chellie Spiller, Associate Professor at the University of Auckland Business School, spoke on the philosophy of Māori and Pasifika “wayfinders”, and how their experiences create valuable lessons for leadership in the 21st Century. She discussed ways to leverage diversity and reach the demands of leadership, and the meaning of true, as opposed to assumed, mana.

Personal journeys

Image of Community Magistrate Lavinia Nathan.

Community Magistrate Lavinia Nathan has a background in offender treatment. She spoke about the concepts of acculturation – the extent to which a person is comfortable in a culture that is not their own; and deculturation – the extent to which a person is alienated from their culture and the associated effects. Community Magistrate Nathan emphasised the importance of judges understanding a defendant’s personal journey and appreciating to what extent that journey may be one of acculturation and deculturation.

Strengthening the collective

Image of Scotty and Stacey Morrison.

Best known for their work as broadcasters, Scotty and Stacey Morrison spoke about the transformative effect of te reo and tikanga Māori. Scotty recounted his personal journey of learning te reo and understanding its value, and how he has seen the transformative effect on so many others who learn te reo. Stacey focused on how tikanga Māori strengthens the collective. Her message was that when tikanga is not respected, Māori are weakened both individually and collectively.

Setting a vision

Image of Tamati Kruger, the Chief Treaty Negotiator for Ngati Tuhoe.

The Chief Treaty Negotiator for Ngāi Tūhoe, Tamati Kruger, explained his role setting the vision for Tūhoe in the post-settlement context. In the courtroom, this means seeing a defendant not merely as an individual, but also recognising the cultural background and context of a person.

Advocacy and activism

Image of Moana Maniapoto making a speech.

Singer, song-writer, musician and film-maker Moana Maniapoto related the story of her advocacy and activism for te reo Māori, particularly through her music as well as documentary film making. Her own experience of court has inspired her work to convey the importance of engaging Māori in the courtroom, and how the use of te reo can further such engagement.

Image from the stage at the 2018 Triennial Conference.