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Free Maori legal advice service keeps on growing

Apr 13th, 2012 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

GOOD CAUSE: Tui Dunlop, Kaihapai and Kaiako Hapori at the Wellington Community Law Centre

FREE legal advice services for Maori have always struggled to get a foothold in the Wellington region, but after a two-year lull, new incentives are regaining that ground.

Te Ratonga Ture left a gap in Wellington-based legal advice services available to Maori after it ceased its programme in 2009.

However, the Wellington Community Law Centre has taken up the reigns and hosts its own free Maori legal service, which is still on the rise.

The incentive has only recently expanded, setting up two free legal advice outreach programmes in the past few weeks in Otaki and Cannons Creek, held at least once a month.

Tui Dunlop, Kaihapai/Kaiako Hapori (Community Education Worker and Community Worker) for the free service, says there is definitely a need for the service for Maori, especially outside of the city.

The aim is to try and regain a sense of community in the outreach programmes, she says. “Obviously, there’s a need out there. There’s a need to go to them instead of them coming to us.”

Ms Dunlop has been a part of the service with Rōia Hapori (Community Lawyer), Kahureremoa Aki, since 2011 and she says the incentive has aimed to fill the gap left by their predecessors since 2009.

“There was a gap where there was no services specific for Maori.”

The service hosts a weekly Kaupapa Māori Free Legal Advice Session at the centre every Thursday, which is run by volunteers including lawyers and law students.

She says their job is to mainly guide clients through the steps and procedures when they face legal issues.

Ms Dunlop says the service aims to empower whanau, promote the use of Te Reo Maori and help the disadvantaged with their legal needs through a tikanga-based service.

The question being, she says: “What are the needs in the community and how we serve that?”

It is a service that aims to help Maori work through legal problems, but in a comfortable environment that caters to their cultural needs through their own kaupapa.

The service works in the initial stages, offering advice and assistance and also legal education.

“We don’t always need to go to court for every issue,” she says. “The justice system can be pretty intimidating.”

She says they work a lot through referrals and will recommend clients to a lawyer with experience and expertise specific to their situation if and when it is needed.

“It’s like we’re empowering the client to do the next steps by themselves.”

Despite the service growing, Ms Dunlop says there is still a big need for more Maori specific services in the area.

Victoria University law student Erin Carr volunteers at the Thursday night sessions and says it has been a really positive experience.

“I had some really awesome experiences,” she says. “You can really help people, it’s really rewarding.”

She says giving up an hour or two each week is worth the experience.

Being of Ngati Awa heritage, Ms Carr got into the programme through the Maori Law Students Association at Victoria University.

She says there is a big need for this kind of service, especially in the Maori community.

“Quite a lot of Maori clients are people that don’t have enough funds for a lawyer. There’s a lot of people who don’t even know it’s an issue and put up with it.”

She says university prepared her to think critically when dealing with cases, but the experience from the Community Law Centre has been invaluable to her understanding of the clients.

“They give you a really straightforward scenario. It’s just dealing with people.”

She says that going through the steps with people, learning their story and helping them through the process was really enjoyable, especially in one particular case.

“It was quite cool for me as a student to sit with this guy and take him through the process,” she says.

“It really helps in how people develop skills, interest and passion for law.”

She says a lot of what they learn at law school is practical and prepared her for the experience, but the volunteer work really opened her eyes.

“It was more about relationships.  It’s not just the battered underdogs, really interesting.” She says there is a need to expand such services so as to stop a lot of adversity for many clients in their legal troubles.

“If there are more places available, there are more people to stop that and empower that community.”

The service runs its Kaupapa Māori Free Legal Advice Session every Thursday night from 5:30pm to 7:00pm.

The Cannons Creek outreach sessions happen every first and third Monday of every month from 9am to 12pm at the Fanau Centre.

The Otaki outreach sessions take place the first Tuesday of every month from 11am to 2pm at Te Wānanga-o-Raukawa.

The services Kaupapa is as follows:

Kaitiakitanga – To encourage and guide each other to continue to fulfil our responsibilities to the community and to reach our goals.

Whanaungatanga – To encourage and support community participation and to respect whānau decision making and solutions.

Manaakitanga – To embrace all clients and provide a safe, accepting and secure environment.

Kotahitanga – To commit to a unified effort to reach our goals for the benefit of the community.

Mana Tangata – To empower our community to take responsibility for creating and determining their own future.

Te Reo Māori – To encourage all to communicate and express themselves in Te Reo Māori.

Whakapapa – To ensure that all generations of whānau benefit from our knowledge and services.

Wairuatanga – To promote and encourage the use of karakia, mihimihi and pepeha.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Phone: (04) 499 2928 Email: kaureremoa@wclc.org.nz or tui@wclc.org.nz Visit: www.wclc.org.nz

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