Project Coordinator | Kaiārahi

Community group support, pro bono coordination and client services
30 hours per week

Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley is a registered charity providing free legal help for individuals and for community groups. We also provide restorative justice services.

As our kaiārahi you’ll coordinate our services to community group clients, maintain relationships with the law firms that provide pro-bono legal help; you’ll provide assistance to our legal team to make sure we give the most help to the most in need; you’ll coordinate the free legal outreach clinics we run in the community, and to do these things you’ll be building relationships between people and organisations from all walks of life.

To demonstrate that you’re right for this role, you’ll need to show us that you:
– Wholeheartedly believes in improving access to justice and using the law to empower disadvantaged members of our community
– Feel equally able to build relationships with people from small community groups and big-time law firms.
– Have a commitment to Community Law’s philosophy and values
– Are resilient under pressure, have strong planning and problem solving skills, can be creative and daring in your approach to community development.
– Have a strong awareness of te reo Māori me ōna tikanga and a great understanding of, and the ability to apply, te Tiriti o Waitangi – both within your workplace and in the wider community.

How to Apply

If you want to join the Community Law whānau, please do apply with a CV and cover letter to: ella@wclc.org.nz

Applications close Wednesday 17 January.

Kairuruku Whakahaere|Operations Coordinator

Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley is a community organisation providing free legal help and restorative justice services.

Our current Operations Coordinator is moving on so we are looking for an awesome replacement. We’re looking for someone who takes admin challenges in their stride and grasps the bigger picture. There are some basic things we require such as great people skills, computer skills and organisational ability, but what we really want is:

  • Someone who wholeheartedly believes in working with us to improve access to justice and using the law to empower the disadvantaged members of our community
  • Someone who is able to work with a broad range of personalities and can get on with others from all walks of life
  • Someone with a commitment to biculturalism, an understanding of Te Tiriti and our constitutional goal of becoming a Treaty-based organisation

In return we promise to offer you a work environment full of passionate individuals and rewarding work.

A copy of the Job Description can be found here.

If this sounds like you – then please apply with a CV and Cover Letter to: manda@wclc.org.nz

Applications close 5pm on Friday August 17.

Community Lawyer – Refugee and Immigration

Tēnā koutou katoa

Are you a lawyer looking for meaningful work that will make a real difference to the lives of others? If so, then read on.

Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley is a registered charity providing free legal advice, information and education to meet unmet legal needs in the Wellington and Hutt Valley communities.

We are looking for a part-time lawyer to be part of our Refugee and Immigration Legal Advice Service (RILAS). The primary focus of this role is assisting refugees with their family reunification applications and providing immigration legal advice. You need to be driven and passionate about helping refugees and other vulnerable migrants. You need to have the heart for this position but you also need to be highly disciplined and organised.

You must be strongly committed to working with our team of volunteers, and to supporting and developing volunteers to deliver our services. You should be able to show initiative and in return you will have flexibility in your work.

We are looking for the right fit for our team and are seeking applications from lawyers with all levels and areas of experience, though immigration law experience is a plus. You must be able to commit to working between both our Hutt Valley and Wellington offices.

This is a job for no ordinary lawyer – it is a one of a kind opportunity in a very rewarding work environment. It will be challenging but also very stimulating and fulfilling. If you hear this role calling your name we encourage you to apply.

You can find the Job Description here

To apply, please send a cover letter and CV to manda@wclc.org.nz.

Applications close 5pm on Friday 22nd September.

Restorative Justice Coordinator Position

Tēnā koutou katoa

Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley is a community not-for-profit organisation providing restorative justice services in the Wellington region. We’re looking for someone amazing to join our restorative justice team, to work with us to increase the availability and effectiveness of restorative justice conferences. This is a part time position of 20-25 hours per week, based primarily in Porirua.

The ideal applicant will have some sharp coordination skills, and be confident relating to a broad spectrum of people, including judges, lawyers, police, community groups, offenders and offence victims. Building great relationships will enable your smooth management of referrals between restorative justice conference facilitators and the court. You will need to be highly self-motivated, a great multi-tasker and able to coordinate with your colleagues from a distance. Our ideal applicant is a people person who is comfortable in the court setting, keen to make things happen, and can back this up with a reliable administration skills and an organised and professional work ethic.  Experience facilitating restorative justice conferences and/or working in the family violence sector would be highly desirable.

This role is part-time and based primarily at Porirua District Court. Your time will be tied to certain court sessions, but apart from that you will need to manage yourself pretty independently, from either our Hutt Valley or our Wellington office.

You’ll be rewarded with a job that has great flexibility, amazing colleagues, incredible job satisfaction and the knowledge that you’re contributing to potentially life-changing experiences for people through restorative justice. We’re open to applications from people with a variety of experience and from a range of backgrounds. We are primarily interested in your raw skills, your character, your commitment to our cause and your ability to learn.

If you’re interested in being part of a great team of people dedicated to developing restorative justice services in Wellington, Porirua, and the Hutt Valley, then we want to hear from you.

The job description is attached here.

To apply, please email your CV and cover letter to Danny Poa: restorativejustice@wclc.org.nz with ‘RJ Coordinator Position‘ in the subject line. Use the cover letter to tell us what you find attractive about this role. Applications close Thursday 31 August 2017 at 5pm.

Seema’s story

[Trigger warning: domestic violence]

At the centre of all our work is our clients. Below is Seema’s story, one of the many clients that we’ve walked alongside…

Please note an alias has been used to project the privacy of the client and her family.

In 2012, Seema came into our immigration advice session. Seema, her husband, and their two children were Indian and had been living in New Zealand for two years. Seema had fled from her husband two nights before with her two young children after her husband had attacked her and threatened her children. Seema and her children had left the house on foot taking only a school backpack and a phone with them. Fearing that her husband was following them they ran to a friend’s house, but found the friend was not there. Seema did not know where else to go as her social circle was very small, her husband did not allow her to have friends. They ended up at the home of a family that Seema vaguely knew through the children’s school. Fortunately for Seema, this family understood the gravity of the situation took them in and then called the police. Seema also made contact with Shakti, a service providing support to ethnic women experiencing domestic violence.

The Shakti support worker brought Seema to see us. Seema explained that her husband had always been violent towards her but it had recently escalated. He was now abusing her on a daily basis (sometimes in front of their children) and forbidding her to speak to anyone. He had also been violent towards their children.  A few days before leaving he had threatened her with a knife.  On the night that she left him she believed that he planned to kill her. Seema was fearful of returning to India as she was from an area where honour killings still occur. She felt that she would be in danger of “disappearing” or being killed.  Seema explained that her actions, in leaving her husband and involving the police, would be viewed as bringing unacceptable shame on her husband’s family. In India she also faced the prospect of losing custody of her children.  They would suffer further due to the stigma of divorce and the shame that she had brought on the family.

Seema’s husband’s family was wealthy and very well-connected and already putting significant pressure on her to return to her husband and to withdraw the complaints that she had made to the police.

Our first step was to put Seema in touch with a family lawyer to apply for a protection order and a parenting order. Seema and her children also moved into a new home and kept the location secret.

Once she was in a safe place, we then turned to her immigration situation. Seema had a temporary partnership visa and her visa status was dependent on her relationship with her husband. By leaving her husband, her visa became invalid and she became liable for deportation.  When we explained the situation to Immigration New Zealand (INZ) they assisted Seema granting her a short-term work visa while Community Law looked for a long-term solution.

In addition to her visa difficulties Seema had constant worries about how she would manage financially especially as Work and Income support is not available to non-residents. Seema was incredibly motivated to support herself and her children and had found a job shortly after coming to us for advice. However her husband began attempting to contact her through her work colleagues. This led to Seema eventually giving up her job.

We continued to work on analysing Seema’s immigration situation and researching solutions. Seema did not meet the criteria to apply for any visa under the immigration policy in place at the time. We spent a number of months researching solutions and documenting the risks Seema faced in returning to India, particularly around the genuine risk of honour killing.  We also sought advice from a range of organisations and experts.   Eventually we drafted comprehensive submissions, collated extensive evidence and made a request to the Minister of Immigration that they grant an exception to immigration policy to allow Seema and her children to apply for residence. Our application was supported by a Family Violence detective from the NZ Police as well as a number of people who were providing support to the family.

We then waited to receive a letter from the Minister of Immigration on whether we had established that an exception was warranted in this case, which is not a simple matter. We were very nervous about our chances of success as the Minister of Immigration rarely grants exceptions to policy.  The Minister has complete discretion as to whether they will consider a request or grant a request. The Minister does not have to give any reasons for their decision and there is no right of appeal against the Minister’s decision.

While waiting for a resolution of the immigration issue, the case continued through the family law and criminal law proceedings. Seema and her children were going through the family court process regarding issues of custody. The family was also preparing to be witnesses in the criminal prosecution against Seema’s husband for the abuse of the family. Seema’s husband repeatedly breached the final protection order that was in place. We were very worried about the safety of Seema and her children.

Approximately a year after first calling the police Seema’s husband was found guilty of most of the charges against him. He was later sentenced to 16 years in prison, indicative of the gravity of his offences and the family law issues were resolved in favour of Seema as well.

Though relieved by the outcome of the family and criminal proceedings, the family was under significant stress which was exacerbated by the uncertainty of their immigration status. A few days after the verdict we found out that the Minister had granted an exception to policy to allow Seema and the children to apply for NZ residence. Their residence applications were granted a few months later.

Seema’s life has now vastly improved since she was able to resolve the issues brought on by her ex-husband’s abuse.  Seema  now has a job and her children are well-settled in school. Seema has built a small network of trusted friends. Her children now can lead normal lives outside of the shadow of abuse and control.  They now have pets, play X-box and musical instruments such as the guitar.  They can invite friends over to their house and or go to visit their friends. The family intends to apply for New Zealand citizenship when they become eligible.  Though it took time, the family is now on the way to live a much happier and less burdened life.

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 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.

This work is hard and we wanted to tell you more about the amazing team behind it…

Our RILAS lawyers are Megan Williams, Hsu-Ee Khoo and Victoria Genys (Vikki). Each of them provids a unique outlook on the issues we face based on their individual life experiences and what brought them to RILAS work as explained in their biographies below.

Megan

“I was really stunned at the circumstances that caused many people to seek asylum and the challenges they faced once they reached the UK. Until that point I knew very little about refugees in NZ other than following the Ahmed Zaoui case. Also as a child in the 80s my parents were friends with a Cambodian (‘Kampuchean’) refugee and supported him in settling into Invercargill. Which I now realise must have been incredibly difficult for him.”

Megan has been a RILAS lawyer on staff since 2012. Before coming to Community Law, Megan’s first legal role was volunteering and then working as a law clerk at the Ngai Tahu Māori Law Centre in Dunedin.  Following a brief stint as a yoga teacher she was impelled to return to law following the introduction of the Foreshore and Seabed legislation.  In 2006 she moved to London and began work at the AIRE centre in London. It was at the AIRE centre that Megan first worked with refugees. Megan says “I was really stunned at the circumstances that caused many people to seek asylum and the challenges they faced once they reached the UK.”. The AIRE centre worked with other marginalized individuals and the Bancoult case in particular stood out for Megan,  “between 1965 and 1973 the UK and US governments forcibly removed the indigenous Chagossians from their homes on the Chagos Islands so that their land could be given to the United States for a military base on Diego Garcia. These Chagossians essentially became refugees and are still not allowed back…. seeing the consequences of the taking of land and property in a modern context gave me a new perspective on the experience of tangata whenua in Aotearoa. It also really highlighted to me the harm that flows from forced displacement and the difficulties of living in exile.’

Returning to New Zealand in 2009, Megan began work in the Māori legal team at Kensington Swan as well as becoming a RILAS volunteer advocate.  In 2012 she applied for the RILAS lawyer role at Te Awa Kairangi (our Lower Hutt office)  and has been here since. She has found an interesting  cross-over from her work in Māori land law and treaty settlements to advocacy for refugees, “there are many similarities in terms of the importance of whanau and close relationships with extended family and cultural practices like whangai/customary adoption.”  

Hsu-Ee

“There was a reading comprehension passage in one of my textbooks about boat arrivals and how people should inform the authorities if they come across boat people. The accompanying drawing is still relatively clear – a number of shirtless men and their boat on the beach.”

Hsu-Ee is coming up to her one year anniversary after joining the team in May 2015.

Her career started out as Refugee & Protection Officer at Immigration New Zealand’s Refugee Status Branch where her core work was deciding asylum claims. From there she worked at  UNHCR Indonesia mainly with Afghan refugees being resettled to Australia. She returned to INZ to work with the Refugee Status Branch and the Refugee Quota Branch, which processes refugee resettlement applications under the Refugee Quota Programme. Following this she worked in Lebanon as part of UNHCR fast-track processing for emergencies.

She was in Lebanon when she saw the RILAS lawyer job advertised.  She says “I’m probably one of those rare people who wasn’t a volunteer first. I’d seen the job advertised a couple of times before but somehow never got round to applying.”  

Hsu-Ee  grew up in Malaysia, going to primary school at the end of the Indochinese refugee crisis. ” There was a refugee processing/detention centre on the outskirts of KL that we used to drive past when going out of town. There was a reading comprehension passage in one of my textbooks about boat arrivals and how people should inform the authorities if they come across boat people – the accompanying drawing is still relatively clear in my mind (a number of shirtless men and their boat on the beach). My mum later explained the refugee issue but I don’t think I understood it until I watched the musical Miss Saigon in my teenage years”

Vikki

Vikki began at RILAS as a volunteer advocate in 2012.  She brought her years of experience as a judicial law clerk in Pennsylvania and as a litigation associate of K&L Gates in Boston to the role. As a volunteer she found she enjoyed assisting clients through the quagmire that can be an immigration application process for a newly arrived refugee who may lack documentation needed for the process.

In 2013 Vikki was offered and accepted a part-time position with RILAS. During this time, Vikki was able to apply novel solutions to an appeal she made to the Immigration Protection Tribunal.  In that case, she successfully argued under the previously existing sibling category that a political prisoner who was had mostly likely died in an Ethiopian prison over ten years ago should not disqualify a sister from bringing her last living relative to New Zealand.  In 2014, Vikki left RILAS to focus on the requirements she needed to become a lawyer in New Zealand.  Once those were complete, Vikki rejoined us in early 2016 as a Community Advocate, and now Community Lawyer.

Being raised by two World War II refugees is pivotal to Vikki’s understanding of the plight of the refugees with whom she works.  Both of her parents fled their countries with practically nothing.  Vikki’s mother spent many years in a refugee camp in Germany.  Her father also spent many years as a refugee in Germany.  Through the immigration process, they both were able to start a new life in the USA.  

This family history gives Vikki an understanding of what it may be like for her clients. As she explains, “though living in the USA, my family home was very Lithuanian.  We ate Lithuania food, attended Lithuanian events and spoke in Lithuanian.  When it regained its independence in 1991, we took family trip together to Lithuania to visit relatives that had been left behind.  It had a great impact on me and makes me understand what it is like to live with a foot in two countries.”  Vikki is looking forward to applying her background and experiences to hopefully many positive outcomes for her clients now facing similar obstacles.

Volunteer Coordinator

Volunteer Coordinator – Kairuruku Kaitūao

Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley is a registered charity providing free legal help for individuals and for community groups. We also provide restorative justice services.

Our current Volunteer Coordinator has taken up a new role with us so we need someone to take her place for 20 hours a week and build on the amazing volunteer programme she and others have developed. There are some basic things we require such as great organisational ability and exceptional diplomacy and pleasantness under pressure. But we’re looking for someone who takes day to day challenges in their stride and grasps the bigger picture – what we really need is:

  • Someone who wholeheartedly believes in working with the rest of us to improve access to justice and use the law to empower the disadvantaged members of our community
  • Someone who is a delight to work with and knows how to get on with others from all walks of life
  • Someone who delights in the satisfaction of a job well done no matter how small

We pride ourselves on being a fun, flexible and family friendly place to work so if you want to be a part of our kaupapa then check out the Job Description.

A copy of the job description can be found here.

If this sounds like you – then please do apply with a CV and Cover Letter to: manda@wclc.org.nz

Applications close 5pm Friday 8 July

Kaiako / Kaihāpai Hapori

Legal Education and Community Development Worker

Kia hiwa rā!

Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley (CLWHV) is looking for the right person to help us continue to grow our community legal services for Māori in Wellington and the Hutt Valley.

This role is part of a regional service which aims to achieve tikanga Māori solutions. We see legal needs in the context of an individual and community’s local, personal, social, spiritual and cultural needs. Our legal service aims to dramatically improve the everyday lives of individuals, whānau, hapū and iwi.

Based in Te Awa Kairangi but working with a team across two offices (Te Awa Kairangi and Te Whanganui-a-Tara), and providing outreach to Porirua, this position provides an opportunity for someone with vision and drive to create real, meaningful change in Aotearoa New Zealand. We currently have an exceptional team of Māori lawyers and community workers who are all incredibly committed to making a difference. To fit in, you will need to be idealistic and passionate, but not a bridge burner. You need to be wholeheartedly committed to improving access to justice for Māori and be prepared to challenge the status quo.

It could suit someone with significant experience in community development and adult education, or a mature and self-motivated graduate. As always, we are primarily interested in your raw skills, your character, your commitment to our cause and your ability to learn.

In return we can offer you an exceptional work environment with as much flexibility and responsibility as you need to get the job done. Our aim is to make community law the best place to work for the best people.

A copy of the Job Description can be found here. If this sounds like your dream job then please send a CV and Cover Letter to: emily@wclc.org.nz­­­.

Applications close 5pm on Monday 15th February.

Community Lawyer | Rōia Hapori

Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley is a registered charity providing free legal help for individuals and for community groups. We also provide restorative justice services.

One of our existing community lawyers has taken up a new role with us so we need someone to take her place and build on the amazing free legal help programme she and others have developed. There are some basic things we require such as great organisational ability and exceptional diplomacy and pleasantness under pressure. But we’re looking for a lawyer who takes day to day challenges in their stride and grasps the bigger picture – what we really need is:

  • Someone who wholeheartedly believes in working with the rest of us to improve access to justice and use the law to empower the disadvantaged members of our community
  • Someone who is a delight to work with and knows how to get on with others from all walks of life
  • Someone who is highly self motivated and thrives in an independent work environment
  • Someone who is committed to sharing our journey towards biculturalism and honouring the Treaty of Waitangi

We pride ourselves on being a fun, flexible and family friendly place to work so if you want to be a part of our kaupapa then check out the Job Description here.

If this sounds like you – then please do apply with a CV and Cover Letter to: emily@wclc.org.nz

Applications close 5pm Friday 22 January 2016.