Auckland Disability Law2 min read
Policy and Information leader, Jonathan Tautari returns to discuss the proposed closure of Auckland Disability Law. Jonathan lives in Auckland so this is an issue close to his heart.
Auckland Disability Law provides free community legal services in the Auckland region. It is the country’s only specialist law centre for disabled people, providing access to legal services as well as providing awareness training on issues relating to disability law. Since Auckland Disability Law opened its doors in 2008, it has helped and provided legal support to around 7000 people.
Justice is often used interchangeably with the word fairness. If we desire equality and fairness in our society, the assurance of an impartial justice system is paramount. An unfair society is one where people compete on an unequal basis to others.
“Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress”
Martin Luther King Jr.
An impartial and fair justice system is realised when all people, particularly those with disabilities, have an equal opportunity to access the law in a manner that does not impede their right to justice. When access is denied to any population within our community through an inability to source quality legal representation and advice, we, as a community, need to challenge this. When Auckland Disability Law became threatened with closure due to the Ministry of Justice’s proposed changes to the funding of community law centres, CCS Disability Action offered our support to the campaign against the closures.
The one in five people who have a disability in New Zealand often have very diverse and specific requirements. Auckland Disability Law recognises and is responsive to these requirements. This protects the rights of people with disabilities to achieve equitable and just outcomes in the justice system. Many disabled people are vulnerable and have specific and complex legal issues. I certainly don’t think that telephone and internet services will be able to offer the same support as Auckland Disability Law.
From our experiences, the individuals and families/whanau we work alongside often have issues pertaining to personal, human rights, employment, housing and welfare law. People need to have a fair and easy way to seek justice in all these areas of their lives and keeping law centres like Auckland Disability Law is a key way of ensuring that this happens. If anything, I think we need to look at ways to establish other disability law centres in other parts of the country.
What do other people think. Have you had personal experiences with the justice system or Auckland Disability Law?