If that law firm was a person

He wears his privilege

You can see it as he walks

A halo of light – he imagines sometimes

It bouncing off his gold watch

And his brown brogue shoes.


His suit fits

The tailor knew his father

And the tailor’s father knew his father’s father

The shop front looks like a house

A small white villa

On Tinakori Road.


He adjusts his the length of his sleeves

Sub consciously

A number of times a day.



And juniors

Start to whisper about It.


He wears cufflinks

Gifted to him on his graduation

He will pass them on to his son.


(In the weekend

He sits on the end of his son’s bed

Reads “Harry Potter”

His son asks why “He Who Must not be Named”

Must Not be Named?



He holds a glass of golden whiskey

In his hand after a long day


(Sparkling halo slung off the corner of his red leather over stuffed chair)


He is the last one up

He turns off the tall wooden floor lamp.

And closes the book.

– Anonymous

Alternatives to teaching your disabled daughter how to walk

Darling, there is no such thing as standing on your own two feet anyway. That is just a story some people tell themselves. Yes, we all take the steps on our own but not everyone has to think about every heavy movement. They have always been light on their feet, so this tale just trips off their tongues and trickles down to us, seeping in through blood and bone. It is easy to confuse on your own, on your own, on your own with the name of your hometown.

People there will want to take these steps for you. It is okay to let them, as long as you are navigating. Even walking for you is no guarantee they will know what you mean when you tell them your feet are tired. Do not fall over yourself trying to teach them. Fall over because all kids scrape their knees sometimes and I will help you up.

 Henrietta Bollinger

The jury wants blood under the fingernails

Weeks later, when the detective interviewed him, he didn’t deny that he’d inserted his fingers into my vagina and wiggled them round. I thought it was consensual, he said.

Perhaps he interpreted my shocked gasp as pleasure and decided that was the sound of consent, because I
shook my head
nudged his arm away
edged further away from him
pushed his arm away
said “stop” quietly
said “stop” again, louder
looked him directly in the eyes and said “stop” loudly and clearly during the part in the movie just before Sully crash lands the plane into the Hudson
he didn’t stop
and none of that seems consensual to me.

Nor does the part where I had to forcefully yank his arm out of my vagina with both of my hands, and he resisted, pushing in further, and I pulled harder and turned my body so I was curled in my seat with my back to him, pulling my tights up and my dress down.

None of that is yes. All of it is heart-thudding: the plane thunders into the water and his fingers are back in his own lap.

Maybe he meant the part where I acquiesced to holding his hand. If I was holding his hand, he couldn’t do that flick again, that’s why I did it. That flick of my dress, lying on my knees, suddenly exposing the hemline of my tights for him to pull them down. The flick, the pull, the dry unexpected shove. Two fingers, maybe three.

He didn’t get as far as that the second or third time he tried though, only the first. Because the next few times, when he let go of my hand and began the flick, I was ready to hold my dress down. I held my dress down and stayed sitting there, because I wanted to know what happened in the movie and I didn’t want to disturb anyone by running out. It seemed important to know what happened in the movie because there was a good guy in the movie, and the small hushed battles over my dress didn’t bear thinking about. I was safest in the cinema, because there were people around. If he followed me out with that entitlement in his fingers, that strength in his arms, I wouldn’t be safe.

Initially, after we’d met a couple of times, he’d invited me to his place, said he’d cook me dinner. I’d had to cancel that future plan because of childcare and we ended up going to the movies at short notice. The reason I went to the police was partly because Gemma was so appalled by what happened that she called them, and they asked her to encourage me to go in. But mostly because if I had gone to his house I am certain it would have been much worse when I tried to say stop, and someday, another woman will go to his house and I do not want it to be worse for her.

I was nice to you, he said. As if the fine print for buying me a movie ticket and a glass of wine granted him access to the inside of my body. I just thought I was watching a movie and having a glass of wine.

I just want him to get a fright, I told the detective. I want him to know it’s not ok. He didn’t believe me that it was not ok. He said I was a horrible girl after I ignored 17 calls from him and finally sent him a message saying he needed to learn to take no for an answer. Go stand on your feminist pedestal somewhere else, he said. God girls are dicks. You made life so much more shit. And you need a shave, he said. All of this was screenshot and emailed to the detective.

If pubic hair would have put him off I would grow a mane between my legs. I would grow a dark vulvan version of Rapunzel’s locks to repel him.

I got a bit of a trim I suppose, not that he’d ever know that. It was two days later that I went to the police, and after the initial interview where I somehow managed not to cry, I ended up in a blue gown at the forensics clinic while kind, softly spoken women took clippings of my pubic hair, and scraped my vaginal wall with a stick, scraped under my fingernails with another, and put my dress and several pairs of underpants in their own individual bags. I only wear black briefs and I had chucked the pair I wore that night in the laundry basket along with others, so I couldn’t tell which I had been wearing. The forensics team took custody of my dirty laundry. I wondered if their voices were naturally that gentle and calm, or if they had cultivated that softness for their jobs. How to talk to violated women while they touched parts of their body that shouldn’t have been touched in the first place.

I thought it was consensual, he told the detective. The detective told me that he couldn’t press charges because he didn’t deny what happened, and therefore it was he-said-she-said. If he’d denied it, he would have been charged. The jury want blood under the fingernails, the detective said, and I didn’t mind because I didn’t want to testify in court in the first place, I just wanted him to be scared.

Blood under the fingernails, because his DNA scraped out of my vagina wasn’t enough. I almost asked the doctors if they could do my regular smear while they were down there, but something about being sexually assaulted and having my genitals examined by strangers – gentle as they were – didn’t seem quite the right moment for jokes.

He was scared, though, said the detective. After I turned the cameras off, I gave him the hard word. He was crying when he left.

I liked the detective. I liked all the people I dealt with at the police station and the clinic. They were respectful towards me. The support people. The doctors. The receptionist who made tea. The interviewer out in Lower Hutt at the special interview place where they record everything and make sure there aren’t inconsistencies. You come across well, they assured me. Your story is believable. I felt sad for the women who aren’t as educated or articulate or who don’t have an arsenal of feminist literature and memes in their handbags. The women who don’t come across well and aren’t as believable. The women who aren’t white, or calm, or average in every way, like I am.

The jury wants blood under the fingernails, the detective said, and he was angry.

It’s ok, I said. I just wanted him to be scared. I wanted it on record so that if he ever gets reported again, the next woman will have her story validated and he will go to court. I wanted the incident to become a data point in the statistics on sexual assault. I reported it for all the women who think they aren’t believable or safe and don’t report what happens to them. The statistics tell a terrible story but they don’t tell the full story.

I wanted it on record, even though I hesitated to go to the police, because I wanted their resources to go on domestic violence cases and rape cases. I declined counselling because I was mostly fine, and I have fierce wise friends who supported me. I wanted the limited counselling resources available for the women who don’t have that support, for the woman who gets blamed or ignored because she shouldn’t be such a prude or it’s a compliment or just get over it or did it really even happen.

The statistics don’t reflect the time a man followed me along a dark street and stood next to my car while I took a deep breath, pretending I didn’t know he was there, mentally playing out the exact moves it took to unlock and start my car so I could drive away fast even if he opened a door. The statistics don’t account for the time a man stood in my path to block me, mimed the shape of my body with his hands, and then brushed past me so close his entire body slid along mine and he almost pushed me over. That will never go on record, but the non-consensual penetration at Reading Cinemas on Courtenay Place did.

He works at my university, and I haven’t had much reason to venture into the science buildings before now, but I recently had to talk myself into going to the lab for my physics paper, two years later. I wore my hood up and comforted myself with the knowledge that I would be on alert, but he would be the one taken by surprise. I haven’t seen him.

The detective offered me my clothes back, but that was the only time I’d worn that dress and I didn’t want it. I left it in the brown paper bag with my dirty underpants in the formica-furnished interview room for him to throw away. I thanked him as I walked out.

Charlotte Fielding – Find more of Charlotte’s writing here.

You Meant to Leave Us

A poem by Sisilia Eteuati



You meant
to leave us
I see in
My son
your ears
that stick out
rabbit teeth
too big for his mouth.
I see in
My daughter
your almond shape eyes
your light hair.
Hers turns
in the sun.
And I thank you
For taking with you
a shriveled useless heart
That could not even allow you to
love yourself
and for
leaving behind
which was
most precious.

Thank You To My Nurse

A Poem by Rosie Jimson-Healy

Thank you to my nurse, for turning a blind eye to the crumpled figure of my partner, sleeping in the blue plastic hospital chair next to me, so I wasn’t alone at night.

Thank you to my nurse, for stroking my hair while I cried.

Thank you to my nurse, for smuggling me a brown paper bag of sandwiches at some ungodly hour, when I was finally allowed to eat again (they were delicious).

Thank you to my nurse for waking me softly, smiling, with blood pressure cuffs and pills every three hours.

Thank you to the nurse who painted my best friends nails when she was alone in mental health care.

Thank you to the nurse who told my mum not to leave hospice to buy lemon zinger tea bags on the double, because nana was dying, and sometimes when people are dying, they don’t know what they say.

Thank you to the nurse who will help me when I have babies, when I’m weak or sick, when my partner is hurt, when my brother falls off the back of a car again, when my dad doesn’t take care of himself, when my mother is in pain.

Thank you to our nurses, for your knowledge, for our comfort, for your heart.

I Want My Bike Back

I want my bike back.

Even though I never want to ride it again and I was sick of mountain biking, it’s still my bike and I want it back because he bought it for my birthday and the idea that she’s riding it now tears me up, knowing that he even put a new seat on it for her so that she’d have a smoother ride.

He wasn’t interested in giving me a smoother ride.

He told me I should be grateful the bike had front and rear shocks, alloy body, flasher than any of my friend’s bikes, he said.

I didn’t tell him I didn’t want shocks or an alloy body. I didn’t tell him I preferred the bikes on the other side of the shop, the upright ones in mint-green with baskets and a bell on the handlebars, like the ones they ride in Amsterdam with a stick of bread poking out the top.

I didn’t say that.

I said thank you instead.

He smiled and pushed the bike out of the shop.

I left my sweat on the handlebars of that bike, wishing every minute of the climb to be over, closing my eyes in terror on every slick corner.

I hated that bike but I want it back anyway because it’s mine, and even though it was a dud-ride it was my dud-ride. I want it back because he bought it for my birthday and the thought of her riding it tears me up and some things are sacred, even bikes.

Spotlight on: Refugee stories

It’s time for New Zealand to step up and welcome home more refugees

A practical, hands-on guide for everyone who wants to do their bit.

“We get to decide our national character. If we want it to be one of manaakitanga and welcome, we can work on that while we’re lobbying for an increased quota. We can build up a stash of goodwill and energy that we’re happy to spend on people who need care and hospitality.”

Read the article here.

The story of the famous writer who arrived in New Zealand as a refugee and a nobody

A haunting and affecting essay by Adrienne Jansen.

“We’re thinking a lot about refugees these days – not only the Syrians, but also the Colombians, the Burmese, the Afghans, the Iraqis – and about changing countries, the lost and found of it. In particular, I’ve been thinking about the loss of language – it’s not just about communication, it’s about power, and identity.”

Read the article here.

How do you settle when your loved ones are in danger?

A well-researched and sobering investigation into the process of family reunification. Tessa Johnstone peels back the layers of the New Zealand Immigration System.

The current system puts families in a queue – a very long queue, jostling with hundreds of other at-risk families. There are currently more than 1400 applications, representing some thousands of family members, waiting to be processed under the Refugee Family Support Category. Immigration NZ estimates it will take at five years to work through them.

Read the article here.

Together We Make a Nation

An unmissable series of short documentaries.

Together We Make a Nation weaves together video, delicious recipes, data visualisation, cracking yarns and moments of shattering sadness.

Read the full story on The Spinoff, here.



Community Law Manual – New edition out now!

At nearly 1000 pages long, it’s a far cry from the ring-bound resource of its earliest iterations. But in the most critical way it hasn’t deviated at all. The Community Law Manual exists to make our justice system fairer and more accessible to all.

From its humble beginnings in the 1980s as a loose leaf resource in a ring-bound folder, the Community Law Manual has grown and transformed into a glossy-covered, 1000 page book setting out complex legal information in clear language. Accessed by hundreds of people every day, the Community Law Manual is comprehensive yet accessible, offering real-life examples to help everyday New Zealanders understand the practical application of the law.

We know from our statistics that the Manual is accessed online by over a million users every year and we also sell hundreds of hard copies. The demand for the Manual is evidence of its value, yet for all of that the Community Law Manual remains staunchly committed to its founding principles and is completely free online to everyone who needs it.

Funds generated from the sale of the hard-copy Manual are channelled straight back into production costs for the next year so that each year it can be updated, refreshed and improved. Here’s a glimpse of what’s new in the 2018/19 edition of the Manual.

What’s in this edition that wasn’t in the last one? 

New Disability rights chapter

This year, Community Law has collaborated with individuals and organisations from the Disabled and Deaf community to produce a new chapter on Disability rights. This includes all the topics in the old “Health and disability” chapter, but is much broader and more practical. It covers things like supported decision-making, discrimination in employment, a person’s right to use New Zealand Sign Language, reasonable accommodation, and access to special education services.

Domestic violence

The Domestic Violence chapter has been rewritten to make it more accessible and relevant to people experiencing DV. There’s also a new section on preparing to leave a relationship, a new popout guide to protection orders and new content added to the “other resources” section at the end of the chapter.

Refugees and Immigration

We’ve split up the Immigration and refugees chapter into two chapters: ‘Immigration’ and ‘Refugees’, and updated the entire chapter for changes to policy over the last year. We’ve also added new content about citizenship and community organisations refugee sponsorship schemes.

Begging, busking and sleeping rough

Our “Neighbourhood life” chapter has been refreshed and now includes some other aspects of living in the community, including laws around begging, busking and sleeping rough. Our “Driving and traffic” chapter also explains the laws about dodging bus and train fares (“fare evasion”).

Specific law changes

As we always do, we’ve updated the Community Law Manual to include the various specific law changes that happen every year – for example:

  • “Dealing with Work and Income” covers the Ardern government’s Families Package passed in December 2017, including the new Best Start and Winter Energy payments.
  • We’ve updated the “Employment conditions and protections” chapter to include the new parental leave entitlements, which increased from 18 to 22 weeks on 1 July 2018.
  • We’ve explained a change in ACC policy about whether you’re covered if you break a tooth on a small stone or other foreign object that’s gotten into your food (the bad news is you’re not covered anymore).

We’re also steadily including more examples from real cases to help show what the law can mean in real life and to give a better idea of what it’s like trying to enforce your rights. We talk about how courts and judges have been interpreting and applying the laws we’ve explained in the Manual. For example, in the “Wills” chapter (under “Making a will”), we’ve summarised some cases showing how judges have taken a liberal approach to deciding whether informal notes like emails and text messages can be a legally valid will in some situations. Online readers who want to delve into the details of these cases to find useful comparisons to their own situations can follow the case links we’ve included.

Every year the Community Law Manual evolves, changes and grows. With a combination of support from volunteers, funders and like-minded organisations, Community Law is able to respond to changes in the law, keeping pace with developments in society and technology in order to provide a legal resource that supports the most vulnerable in the community. At nearly 1000 pages long, it’s a far cry from the ring-bound resource of its earliest iterations. But in the most critical way it hasn’t deviated at all. The Community Law Manual exists to make our justice system fairer and more accessible to all.

By buying a copy of the Manual you are not only getting a hard copy to keep within arm’s reach, you’re also directly improving the chances that others in the community will be able to do the same. Together, we can continue to improve and refresh the Manual, next year and beyond. Order your Community Law Manual 2018–2019 now. Email: info@wclc.org.nz


Busking: The unwritten code

The council brought in all these new laws. Time limits and noise levels and shit. Gotta have a permit, can’t work one spot for more than an hour. Gets me wild.

The thing about busking is you gotta know where to set up. Location is everything. Don’t bother wasting your time outside a bank, rich people are mean-as, won’t throw you a cent. Outside a chemist’s the spot. You’d be surprised how generous sick people can be. Nothing makes a person feel better than knowing there’s someone out there worse off than them. I look at them and smile and as soon as there’s eye contact, boom, hand goes straight to the purse.

And another thing. There’s an unwritten code when you’re busking. You don’t go and set up next to someone. There’s this woman, she plays the violin. Doesn’t matter if I’m here first, she’ll go and set herself right beside me, I mean like right there. Gets me wild. I say to her ‘lady, we’re not in a fuckin band, get your own spot.’ But she doesn’t listen. She’s got no manners. I’m not like that. If I come down and she’s there, I go somewhere else. I got manners.

Couple times I’ve been moved on. The council brought in all these new laws. Time limits and noise levels and shit. Gotta have a permit, can’t work one spot for more than an hour. Gets me wild. Took me months to get a permit last time and I then I didn’t get asked to show it once. Waste a bloody time.

There’s this place downtown, outside Noel Leemings. Yeah. The manager there hates me. Accuses me of playing the same song over and over again. I tell him, ‘bae, I’m not a fuckin’ juke box and I wasn’t put on this earth to entertain you.’

But if you wanna know the truth, I do it on purpose. Bob Marley especially gets him wild. I wait til I know he’s on the counter and then I start up. Say I remember…. when you used to sit…. in a government yard in Trenchtown….  Sure enough, nek minute, here he comes, wild as, telling me to get lost. Fark, cracks me up.

But I gotta get my laughs somehow. This ‘aint an easy gig out here. You have your good days and your bad days. A good day I might get a hundred bucks. Bad days I get nothing but a fuckin’ head cold. People look at me like they feel sorry for me sometimes, ‘specially in winter when it’s pouring with rain.

I know those looks. It’s a look of dollar signs.

Fighting for Justice – Working at Community Law

“There is no such thing as an average day for our community lawyers.”

Lawyers often get cast in a rather unflattering light. You don’t need a lawyer when everything is going right in your life. Instead, they are often the bearers of bad news or the person you have to turn to when you’ve already got the bad news. They are there on the edges of relationship break-downs, evictions and letters of demand. Yet in my 6 years working at Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley (CLWHV), the lawyers I have worked with are anything but the vultures described in pop-culture jokes. They are consistently passionate about fighting injustice, driven to get the best for their clients and motivated to ensure everyone in our community understands their rights.

There is no such thing as an average day for our community lawyers. They spend their days travelling between our advice clinics in the suburbs, supervising the drop-in clinics in or presenting legal education for free in between making sure any client work they have is being attended to. This month I spoke to three of our current lawyers, Kate, Sarah and Ione to find out what working at CLWHV means to them.

Spotlight on RILAS

Vulnerable migrants

As highlighted by Seema’s story, we can provide some assistance to women who are experiencing family violence and whose visa status is dependent on their relationship with their partners. The visa options available to people in these situations depend on the immigration status of their partners: people who leave a violent relationship with NZ citizens or NZ residents are able to apply for special work and residence visas for victims of domestic violence if they meet certain criteria. People in relationships with partners who hold work visas are not eligible to apply for these special visas and their immigration options are very limited. This makes them extremely vulnerable and in need of advocacy.

We also have provided assistance to individuals experiencing illegal employment conditions but feel they cannot resign as their visa is tied to their place of work.

Refugee family reunification

A large part of what we do is providing on-going assistance to refugees with their family reunification applications. Last year we assisted with over 100 cases. We have 14 volunteer advocates who provide ongoing support to these applications.

Many refugees end up separated from their family members when they flee persecution. Refugees separated from their immediate family members (dependent children and/or spouses), or here alone or are sole carers for dependent children, are entitled to apply for reunification with certain family members (under various different Immigration New Zealand policies.)  

The family reunification process is complex and can be incredibly stressful to navigate, particularly for newly arrived refugees. Family members are often living in dangerous situations and this makes family reunification even more crucial. We regularly see the profound impact that family reunification has on the lives of refugees. When family reunification is complete we see that refugees are much better equipped to look for work, learn English and to participate in their new communities.

Education and community connections

We provide information and reach out to the community through our community education programs.  In order to promote how our services work to those who may qualify, we are involved in the  Red Cross inductions for newly arrived refugees. We also provide legal education on immigration to those working with refugees and vulnerable migrants. In the past we have presented to the District Health Board and the Citizen Advice Bureaux. We’ve also lectured at Victoria University and Otago University (Wellington campus) on immigration topics.

We work hard to raise the profile of refugee and migrant issues by participating in public discourse. In the past year our supervising RILAS lawyer Megan Williams has spoken on panels and been interviewed by Law Talk and Radio NZ.