As part of the project's commitment to recognise the work of our volunteers, whose dedication is relied upon, each team leader has been asked to nominate one outstanding volunteer for 2016. These volunteers will be showcased over the next four weeks.
Hear what Michaela has to say below:
I began volunteering with the Advocacy sector of the Community Justice Project (CJP) at the start of this year. Despite not knowing what to expect, my passion for the defence aspect of criminal law encouraged me to apply. Namely, helping those caught up in the vicious cycle of recidivism, often as a result of ill-fated environment and not of their own free will.
CJP has helped me develop transferable skills, as it is people-focused. Discussing a client’s needs with various stakeholders, and with the client directly, is essential in any legal position. Advocacy enabled me to do just this in the authentic environment of the District Court. In listening to the experiences of legal aid employees, all were openly positive about their job satisfaction levels. I think this is because, paid or unpaid, the reward one receives from helping a client in need is like no other. Yet still, it must be remembered that humility is key.
I have learnt that it can be a lot tougher on the ‘other side’ that defence lawyers have to work with. Many are criticised for representing their clients, people often remaining ignorant of one’s innate right to attorney in a court of law, irrespective of their actions. There is also a lack of resources to sufficiently deal with the masses flowing through our criminal justice system and, as welfare advocates, my team and I find it very difficult to get hold of government services. I believe that volunteering in the community is an essential resource as it opens one’s eyes up to social issues that affect us all, and particularly, where need for change is most pressing. Community work has developed my communication skills and appreciation for the diversity of human personality.
Outside of CJP and my law studies, I volunteer with the Te Pūtahi Atawhai programme, mentoring first year Māori and Pasifika students. Hailing from Ngāi Tahu, I enjoy spending time with my Ngā Rangahautira whānau. Generally, I spend my spare time beside a good book, keeping physically active, and most importantly, studying hard for Professor David McLauchlan’s famous contract law course.
As to where to from here, I hope to continue with the Advocacy team for the remainder of my time at Victoria and beyond, making the most of every opportunity that comes my way. I would love to work for the Public Defence Service some day in order to incorporate my passions career-wise.
I cannot thank CJP enough for the unforgettable experience they have given me and the practical value it has added to my law studies.
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