“Our vision is nothing less than changing our profession so that it becomes representative of all New Zealanders.”
This declaration, by Chief Justice Rt Hon Dame Helen Winkelmann, is the central driver behind Te Kuhunga, a programme built to inspire, inform, and support senior secondary students from central Auckland’s low decile schools to study Law at university.
Established in 2019 by Crown Law firm Meredith Connell (MC) with a number of other supporters, Te Kuhunga uses a range of approaches to help students from diverse backgrounds to succeed and be represented in the legal profession.
For example, as part of Te Kuhunga’s outreach activities, young MC lawyers visit schools and share their experiences with students who show an interest in studying law. The legal firm also transports students to an Open Day hosted by Auckland’s two Law Schools, giving participants the chance to ask questions and learn what to expect while studying law at tertiary level.
Te Kuhunga participants also get to explore the award-winning offices of MC – which boasts a purpose-built, mock courtroom.
Recently, around 60 students from central Auckland decile 1-4 schools participated in the Te Kuhunga Open Day, which was co-hosted by AUT and the University of Auckland.
AUT Law School Dean Khylee Quince and senior lecturer Lida Ayoubi met students on the City Campus, where they presented mini lectures and helped students work through a fact pattern to tease out legal arguments and present a short moot.
“Initiatives like Te Kuhunga are incredibly important for helping ensure our legal system has a diversity of thought and experience that reflects the diversity of our society,” says Khylee. “By giving these senior secondary students a taste of what’s involved with earning a law degree, we show them how a university qualification can be beneficial – for them as individuals and as part of their wider communities.”
In addition to university visits, Te Kuhunga also offers scholarships and mentoring to students who successfully enrol to study law.
“As the Chief Justice has made clear, and she’s dead right, the judiciary needs diversity of thought and representation to reflect the community it serves,” says MC’s Chair and Crown Solicitor Brian Dickey. “Through Te Kuhunga, MC provides a direct action to help university law schools make this vision a reality for the next generation of the legal profession.”