Community projects help minority groups


PROJECTS SUPPORTING THE DEAF & HEARING IMPAIRED COMMUNITY, COLLEGE STUDENTS AND IMMIGRANT COMMUNITIES

The Law Foundation has a strong track record of supporting projects that help specific social groups better understand the law and their rights and obligations.

The following are some Foundation-backed initiatives have helped explain legal concepts and process for immigrants, senior high school students, and deaf and hearing-impaired people. Each of those groups, for different reasons, has some difficulty accessing relevant information from mainstream sources.

Community Television – Know Your Rights

A Foundation grant enabled the production and broadcast of a 13-part television series, Know Your Rights, providing basic, practical information and advice on common legal topics.

The series was inspired by a book of the same name by South Auckland lawyer Catriona Maclennan. She was asked to present the programme by Triangle Television, which has a substantial following among immigrant groups.

“Immigrants and people with English as a second language find it particularly difficult to access legal information and advice,” Catriona says. “We had two lawyers as guests on each programme who did segments in languages including Samoan, Tongan, Maori and Hindi. I thought it was really important to have people that the audience could identify with.”

Know Your Rights screened in mid-2012, attracting 15-20,000 viewers each episode, and was re-broadcast on Sky in early 2013. The series has been sold to the Citizens Advice Bureau and to Community Law Centres.

“I was really pleased with how it turned out – it was much better than I had hoped for,” Catriona says. “We wouldn’t have been able to do it without the Law Foundation kindly providing the funding.”

Law in schools

The Law in Schools Project introduces Year 13 secondary school students to New Zealand’s legal system. Starting in Wellington in 2008, the project expanded to schools in Auckland, Christchurch and Hamilton. The Foundation provided pilot funding for each move to a new region.

Amy Williams managed the project in Hamilton in 2012. She said fourth-year Waikato University law students were recruited to run the courses at three high schools.

“People I have spoken to at the schools say it has been really well received,” she said. “The modules are developed through community law centres, and are aimed at a good level for secondary students to identify with.

“The content is really relevant to them – for example, they might have just started in employment, or be looking at doing so in the near future. It’s not telling them everything about their rights and obligations, but it shows them where to go for help and advice.”

Amy said the courses were a great experience for tutors and students alike, with lots of student interaction, and had established a good base for continuing.  Community Law Centres in these main centres have now taken over responsibility for continuing the Law in Schools work.

Legal rights DVD for deaf and hearing-impaired

The Police and deaf or hearing-impaired people face particular challenges when dealing with each other. A Foundation co-funded “Bill of Rights” DVD brings the issues to life through a role-played legal case.

The National Foundation for the Deaf Chief Executive Louise Carroll says the project involved deaf and hearing-impaired actors playing the roles of legal counsel, Police Prosecutor, Judge and defendant in a case involving domestic violence and drink-driving.

She says the actors played their actual professional roles, giving the DVD “an air of credibility and honesty.”

“It’s hard-hitting, it doesn’t pull any punches…it shows an actual scenario that is very credible. It has had good feedback from the deaf and hearing-impaired communities.

“As the case unfolds, all the rights as they apply are highlighted in captioning and New Zealand sign language,” she says.

The DVD was launched in September 2012. Copies have been distributed throughout the Police and to organisations working in the deaf and hearing-impaired sectors, as well as government agencies and Citizens Advice Bureaux.

“It’s a fantastic initiative,” Louise says. “We are really grateful to the Law Foundation for their support, not just in funding but by asking the right questions and providing good advice.”

The Foundation supported an earlier VHS version of the video made in 1996.

The Law Foundation has contributed over $1.3m to community projects in recent years.

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