Speaking Out About Speaking Up (In Class) – Marcelo Rodriquez Ferrere

As I was walking to my first Public Law lecture of 2016, I happened to walk behind a couple of second year law students. Naturally, being law students, the pair’s conversation was at an elevated volume, and so naturally, when I heard them mention my name, I eavesdropped. Sadly, my presence in their conversation was not for positive reasons. It turned out that I had a bit of a reputation, one that stretched beyond my voluminous hair, poor posture and, apparently, ill-fitting trousers.

That reputation was for – quelle horreur! – asking students questions during lectures, and singling out particular students to answer them. This was new information to me. While I knew I had a reputation for picking on students who wear stripes or bright colours, I was quite unnerved that now I simply had a reputation for asking students questions at all, and that these students were utterly fearful of that reputation. As I explained to that class, there are many reasons for this approach: it lets me gauge whether students are following the lecture and understanding the material, while at the same time engaging the class and breaking up the monotony of my dulcet baritone (occasionally alto) voice. Ultimately, I think (and students tell me confidentially in feedback) that the approach can make lectures more interesting. It is not and was never supposed to be a technique to terrify students. I’m no sadist – that’s Professor Geddis’s department.

I understand that my light-hearted analysis of the various baseball caps, clothing choices and beards in class (although let’s be honest, when it comes to beards, it’s just me projecting my significant insecurities on that score) might sting a little in the public setting of Archway 4. However, through talking with students in the apparent-therapy-session-that-is-the-SOULS-wine-and-cheese-event, it’s become clear that people are less mortified about having me talking about their stripy clothing than they are mortified about answering the question. So mortified, it seems, that they will go to great lengths to avoid being called upon in class.

Now, I’m well aware that some students are afflicted by acute social anxiety and that to speak in such a public setting is a genuinely upsetting experience. I do not want to minimise those very real issues that such students face (and, I should note, am taking steps in my future lectures to accommodate these students to ensure I never call upon them). However, it seems that classes are possessed by a collective social anxiety: no one wants to answer the question. It’s not as if the questions are particularly difficult: the vast majority of students will answer the questions I pose correctly (after all, as I described above, I’m not trying to catch people out).  Moreover, it’s not like there isn’t a 100% effective solution to being called out: simply raise your hand and volunteer the answer and neither you nor your colleagues will be called upon to provide it.

So, if students know the answer to my questions, why don’t they (you) provide it voluntarily, and why are they (you) terrified when I ask them to provide it? Certainly, this reticence isn’t a common feature of law students internationally. North American students, for example, suffer from the reverse: they won’t stop asking questions of the lecturer. I’ve seen entire lectures being derailed by inquisitive students not letting the lecturer get a word out. Perhaps that’s the hell some of you would wish for me. So let us localise the issue: why do Otago law students have a problem with speaking out in class? Perhaps much of it has to do with New Zealand and its national predilection to embracing tall poppy syndrome: to raise your hand and venture an opinion is to be different; other, and thus generally to be avoided. However, I would think, and hope, that law students – future advocates – would be the one sector of University that we can depend upon to break the mould and resist that national ethos.

It comes down to consequences. Answering questions can be stressful when there is so much on the line, and so little to gain. Answer the question correctly, and you’re a geek/nerd/keener/try hard (or whatever is the appropriate term these days); answer the question incorrectly, and you look like an idiot. Either way, you become a social pariah. So, you might be screaming silently in the library while reading this: why would I want to answer the question when there is no good that can come of it?

Indeed, if that’s the case, I completely understand why you wouldn’t want to answer the question. Except of course, that’s not the case. Those are phantom consequences. Few students will label you a geek for answering a question correctly (those that do really ought to query why they are in a place of higher learning). Similarly, I’m certain students won’t label you an idiot for incorrectly answering a question in good faith. You might feel that your colleagues are appending those labels to you; burning you with their gaze of judgment. They aren’t. Trust me. They’ve already forgotten the exchange. And, if you answered correctly, they likely appreciate the fact that you’ve stopped the line of questioning from continuing.

On a hot March day in 2004, as I sat in the third row of a particularly stuffy Archway 4, Associate Professor James Allan (now Garrick Professor of Law at the University of Queensland) asked the Public Law class who wrote the American Declaration of Independence. I’m still not particularly certain of the relevance of the question. All I know is that Allan picked on students mercilessly: “you in the red hat, or whatever that is on your head”. I’m not sure what possessed me, but I yelled out “Benjamin Franklin”. It was incorrect, and Allan made it clear that this was the case: “nice try, but I think he was too busy flying a kite.” He nevertheless stopped the line of questioning and moved on (Thomas Jefferson, if you were wondering.) And so, dear reader, as a law student once who had a lecturer that would with apparent callousness call students out to answer questions, I know and empathise with your feelings of mortification. But, I also know that no-one, no-one, remembers that exchange apart from me. There were no negative consequences.

I’m realistic. I know that I won’t change the Otago culture: I shan’t turn up to a lecture and have a hundred hands raised high and desperate to engage in a meaningful dialogue and exchange of ideas. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop asking questions, because it’s important to aim towards that ideal of making lectures beneficial, engaging and interactive experiences. My challenge to you, students, now that you know (and perhaps always knew) there are no negative consequences to speaking up, will you resist this collective anxiety that pervades Archway 4? Will you raise your hand and stop being so fearful of my penchant for stripes? It’s your move.

 

Written by Marcelo Rodriguez Ferrere.

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Law Library Tips from Kate Thomson

OMG, third year has begun. Suddenly you have 5 research and writing pieces looming over you for the next two years. You are not alone… you have the Law Library.

First, some general tips for successful legal research.

  1. Plan your research – think about keywords, cases and statutes, and jurisdiction
  2. Use the databases provided – they ensure the data you find is of a high quality and will save you time in the long run
  3. Evaluate your research (is it good law?), keep track of what you found, where and how.
  4. Use the NZ Law Style Guide for referencing
  5. If you get stuck, don’t delay, get help

Here’s how we can help:

  1. The Law Subject Guide

Bookmark it now.  http://otago.libguides.com/law

This guide is a portal to all of your legal research needs. The Research Strategies tab contains links to the step-by-step guides used in the LAWS398 tutorials, the Faculty Research and Writing guide, flowcharts, a suite of self-help database tutorials, and much much more.

  1. Law Databases

WestlawNZ LexisNexisNZ, CCH, Heinonline, LegalTrac, ICLR, Westlaw and Lexis are the key resources you should use. The Law Subject Guide Database tab provides links to these resources as well as tips for their use.

  1. The Law Librarian, Kate Thompson

If you need additional help, or have a burning question, please contact me before the frustration kicks in! Legal research is sometimes like being a detective, so when a clue is eluding you, I can talk you through the problem. I can also help you with your research strategy, choosing the best databases, referencing questions, avoiding plagiarism, and other academic necessities.

  1. The Library

It‘s not all online. The physical library collection contains a lot of high quality and unique information that is not on the internet.

  • Use Library Search \ Ketu http://www.otago.ac.nz/library/ to discover what is on the shelves.
  • The latest editions of key texts recommended by the Faculty of Law staff are on Reserve: this is a closed collection, so Library Staff will mediate your requests.
  • If you want a tour, try the virtual one via the subject guide, or get your mates together and arrange a group tour with the Law Librarian.

  1. Library staff.

Front line library staff are there to help you, or direct you to someone who can. They have a wide understanding of general library functions and services. Just ask.

 

Written by Kate Thomson.

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

The saying goes: ‘innocent until proven guilty’. In New Zealand, and around the world, most crimes carry a presumption of innocence. Despite this, people constantly slip through the cracks of our justice system. David Bain and Teina Pora are two high-profile examples of those who have been convicted of murder, served large portions of their lives in prison (12 and 20 years respectively), and were then declared to be innocent. Around the world thousands of others have suffered similar ordeals – but thanks to 68 international ‘Innocence Projects, including the Innocence Project New Zealand (IPNZ), many of those wrongfully imprisoned are slowly but surely being exonerated.

The Innocence Network is a global organisation that uses DNA testing (which was often unavailable during original trials) to prove the innocence of those that have been wrongfully imprisoned. Since its establishment in 1992, various Innocence Projects has successfully helped overturn more than 350 wrongful convictions. With many IPNZ staff working pro bono, they rely heavily on the goodwill of lawyers, law students, psychologists and other scientists who work tirelessly to free innocent people from prison. This is necessary work – the number of innocent people convicted globally is estimated to be as high as 10%. Just let that sink in. 1 in 10 prisoners could be innocent.

IPNZ is spearheaded by our very own Prof Mark Henaghan, our vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne, and Psychology Associate Prof Rachel Zajac, among others. The day-to-day operations of the project are facilitated by Dr Bridget Irvine. As they all attest, overturning a conviction is no easy feat. “Because the [justice] system doesn’t like to admit it is wrong”, says Mark Henaghan, “you have to do a hell of a lot of work… to show there is something the system has missed”. In New Zealand, convictions cannot be overturned unless fresh and credible evidence comes to light. This is why the Innocence Network relies heavily on DNA evidence, which can provide conclusive proof of a person’s innocence. Before the advent of DNA testing, factors such as incorrect eyewitness accounts, false confessions, and incorrect questioning techniques caused an alarming number of people to be locked away for crimes they did not commit.

There is arguably no better example of this than Teina Pora. While not related to DNA, Pora’s case demonstrates the break-down of the justice system that was so typical of the 80s and 90s. Pora’s Lawyer, Jonathan Krebs, originally got involved with the case because Pora’s confession “just looked so ridiculous”. Pora has a mental age of 8-12 years old, and suffers from foetal alcohol spectrum disorder. When questioned by the police therefore, Pora had a desire to please and agree with them – and he eventually agreed to everything they told him. One vivid example of this was when Pora was asked “what colour was the car?”. He guessed four or five different colours before landing on the right one, and the police moved on to the next question.

Thankfully, Krebs notes that “police questioning techniques have improved considerably”, and the introduction of compulsory video-taping of interviews, coupled with better police training, has led to far fewer false confessions. Nevertheless, there is always more to be done. Krebs is currently taking a case to the Privy Council that began under the Innocence Project, but “ran out of steam”. He notes that “the [problem with] the Innocence Project is that it relies upon the goodwill of people – and there is a limited supply”.

Currently the Innocence Project is supported by a bunch of volunteers around Dunedin, most of whom are law students in their fourth or fifth year of study. Different students help the team each year, volunteering for around 3 hours per week. In the words of Bridget Irvine, “Law students—in their volunteer capacity—are the backbone of the project”. Helping out the Innocence Project is an excellent, hands-on way to give back to the community and to learn how the legal system works (or sometimes doesn’t). The Project is always looking for new volunteers who can bring energy and a fresh perspective to understanding claims of wrongful convictions. A basic understanding of criminal law (and the law of evidence) is helpful, and students who are completing complementary second degrees (e.g. psychology, biochemistry) also bring new ideas into the mix.

If you are interested in helping out the Innocence Project team, or just want to find out more, get in touch with Dr Bridget Irvine, Research Co-ordinator of the Innocence Project New Zealand. Bridget is happy to receive calls on 03 479 4002, or emails to ipnz@psy.otago.ac.nz.

 

Written by Jasper Fawcett.

Gender Identity and Queer Support at Otago Law

Eight years before I was born, homosexuality was illegal. By the time I was 18, Parliament allowed same sex couples to marry. In less than 30 years there has been a massive change in the representation of sexuality in the media, popular culture, and wider society. However, despite this change there remains a prejudice and misunderstanding about queer lifestyles.

 

It is still difficult for many people to understand the feelings they may be having. Many are often embarrassed for having these feelings at all. If you are feeling unsure about your sexuality, even slightly, the best thing you can do is talk about it. Below is a list of some of the assistance available on campus.

OUSA runs a Queer Support programme, led by full time staff member Hahna Briggs, at the Student Support Centre on Ethel Benjamin Place. Under Queer Support’s umbrella is peer support, where you can be confidentiality paired up with like-minded and trained buddy. OUSA also runs an advocacy programme, staffed with advocates who can assist if you are experiencing discrimination or are having a general rough time with uni life. These fully trained advocates can assist with all issues, and can also help with changes you might wish to make to the University’s or an outside group’s policy to make it more inclusive. Contacting one of Queer Support’s services is easy – either visit their office behind the Clubs and Socs building, or send an email to q.support@ousa.org.nz.

Additionally, UniQ is a fully student run group who have a more social focus, providing queer friendly spaces and regular social functions. You can contact UniQ on their Facebook page.

Someone a bit closer to home who can assist is our own Marcelo Rodriguez Ferrere, who is part of the Queer Friendly Staff Network. In plain terms this means that Marcelo is available for anyone to talk to about any queer related issue (or any issue for that matter). Marcelo is not the only staff member in this network – you can check the OUSA Queer Support Website to see which other University staff members are in the network, and which departments they are from.

Sometimes it can be easy to forget that SOULS is about more than just Wine and Cheese and lost property. As your Education and Welfare Representative, I am available to help with any welfare concerns. Any concerns you take to me or anyone else on the Executive will be held in the strictest confidence.

Further to all of this, there are vast amounts of online resources available. One of the more recent and progressive publications out there can be found at www.takatapui.com.

It’s a big, changing, and challenging world out there but most of all it is exciting and there is always someone to talk to. Whether that be your mates, a lecturer or someone from Queer Support, it is super important to let someone know how you are going.

 

Written by Sean Gamble

‘Legally Blind’ 2.0

 

We at SOULS are firm believers in increasing inter-year group and intra-faculty relations (or as Mark Henaghan would call it, ‘collegiality’). To this end, we’ve decided to set up single law students on blind dates. We provide the food and alcohol, you provide a good time and a write-up of the night’s events (as below). If this sounds like you, keep an eye on our Facebook page for the next round of sign-ups!

Her.

After hearing from my hairdresser that blind dates are the MO of murderers who chop girls up and put them in their freezer, I turned up to Velvet pretty chopped, pretty late and pretty nervous. In hindsight, “you don’t seem like a murderer” probably shouldn’t have been my opening comment but I’m pretty sure he took it as a compliment. Not only was he good looking but he had good chat and didn’t come across as a total asshole so he’s already streets ahead of most law bros I know.

I have to admit that I was keeping a notes tab open on my phone because I knew I would forget all the questionable stuff that happened. This proved to be a great idea because the first thing I wrote, which I have zero recollection of, was ‘Why does he keep saying ‘proceedings’ in conversations? Is he trying to prove he does law??’ Aside from this, what I recall of the chat was that it was v good. Our shared love of Marcelo definitely came up a few times. I must have looked horrified when he announced he was a vegan because he followed it with “but I don’t give a fuck about animals… just the environment”. Swoon. He proceeded to explain why I should watch the Cowspiracy documentary and told me about, and I quote, “really cool vegetables”. Meanwhile I ate my chicken and bacon burger with zero regrets.

When our wine ran out we headed to Night and Day where he swept me off my feet with the line “do you wanna split a pack of darts?” which I’m pretty sure came straight out of Romeo and Juliet. Needless to say, I was game from there.

To give the guy credit, he did back me up in my losing battle when the Suburbia bartender tried to step me out, and he wrangled a refund for our drinks when we got kicked out. Chivalry is not dead. He bought us a fancy (I’d say at least $14) bottle of wine even though he clearly pined for a box of Billy Mavs, and in response I suggested we go back to mine.

Great chat ensued, and we managed to swap some horrific stories which I’m pretty sure we promised to keep out of the write up… I definitely would have reneged on that promise just for the sake of being really brutal but I can’t actually remember the details of his. Sorry team. It was here that we realised we both have banger taste in music, especially the genre to make out to. It was reminiscent of a romantic movie where they fall into bed listening to soft jazz, except I was kind of falling onto the floor to the tunes of the Arctic Monkeys.

Eventually we both became too intoxicated to make good decisions, and settled on saving ourselves till we can find a nice quiet spot in the law library or even Archway 4, for old times’ sake.

Overall fab night, would highly recommend the blind date if you’re down to get a bit weird with a stranger you’ll almost definitely share a ten-floor elevator ride with in the future.

Him.

About 3 hours prior to the 8pm meet time I decided it was time to start preparing myself. Alternating between some Andrew Geddis podcasts and the new Kendrick Lamar album on the speakers in my room, I commenced my 3-hour manscape. Then after 2 nervous poos and a bottle of Bird Dog I was out the door.

I was a healthy 6 minutes late, but I still found myself waiting like an idiot for another 5. It didn’t help that Velvet Burger was hosting an Ignite Consultants BYO that night which several of my mates were apart of.

And then she arrived. My blue-haired bombshell was a gift from the SOULS gods. Great chat flowed along with the wine while we proceeded to laugh the night away. After a half-arse attempt at eating our burgers we decided for a change of scenery. I had gathered by this point that my date might be partial to a cigarette or two, and sure enough she, like me, had also left her pack at home. We must have been really fiending because the next thing I know we’ve bought a pack and are sitting in the stairwell that leads up to Etrusco sharing a dart. Romantic, I know.

Still wanting to kick on, we walked back towards the Octy. We bumped into Joan the Butcher and her mate while we were searching for the next bar, and being the good Samaritans that we are, we decided to shout them both a durry. They were very happy. We kept walking and ended up at the fine establishment called Suburbia. The fires were on outside the bar which provided an ideal moody setting, so I left my date with another Marlboro while I went inside to buy us a drink. As I came back armed with a house Sav and the cheapest tap beer available, I heard the bartender complaining to some other patrons about the stingy order I had just made. Now I thought this was pretty rude – we were paying customers and surely she caught on that we were penniless students? I told my date and she agreed that it was not chur. Then the bartender comes out after a minute or two and starts turning off the fires and shutting up shop. I couldn’t believe it, but I kept my cool and politely asked for her to just keep one on while we finished our drinks. She said we could finish our drinks, but she didn’t want to attract any more bar goers by having the fires on and started to head back inside, but not before my date decided to ask under her breath, “Is it because we’re students?” Now, I think the bartender heard her, but still asked if my date could repeat the question, to which she decided to ignore. You could cut the tension with a knife as the bartender asked another couple of times before I decided to answer her by repeating the question myself. Then this woman really kicked off. Like this rude, sassy-ass woman was seriously fucking angry and just going to town on us. After having a bit of back-and-forth and me firmly expressing my displeasure with her tone and the service she had given us, we were asked if we wanted our money back. I immediately said yes. We got out of there with refund in hand, but not before I drunkenly broadcasted to the street how shithouse Suburbia was. Never going back there.

My date loves it. Thought it was real manly standing up for her or some shit. Big ups to me. So I’m feeling quite happy with myself and decide to use the $17 refund from Suburbia to splash on a nice bottle of wine to take back to her abode. The conversation got to music, so we started up the speakers and alternated playing songs while continuing to chat. I’m feeling rather groggy at this point so I start to slow down on the wine. The music follows suit, so I took the opportunity to make a move as a particularly sultry song came on. It was a great success.

By 1am we were still chatting and canoodling, but we both decided that a sleepover wasn’t on the cards.  I went on my merry way not long after that to a nearby grad party and kept sending it until 5am.

Massive thanks to SOULS and my gorgeous date for a great night!

‘Legally Blind’ 1.0

We at SOULS are firm believers in increasing inter-year group and intra-faculty relations (or as Mark Henaghan would call it, ‘collegiality’). To this end, we’ve decided to set up single law students on blind dates. We provide the food and alcohol, you provide a good time and a write-up of the night’s events (as below). If this sounds like you, keep an eye on our Facebook page for the next round of sign-ups!

Her.

Headcase: Law Student v Dignity [2017] NZVB

Held: Dignity lost, student awarded hangover dustier than the Law Reports in the Richardson Library.

As a fifth year, my search for a SOULS mate has been, much like a Carbolic Smoke Ball, steamy yet ineffective. As such, I figured it was high time to leave it to “the experts” at SOULS to bag me the Jesse to my Marcello. In true scarfie fashion I rocked up 8 standards deep, fizzing to discuss some dicta. “Jesse” came in hot a few minutes later (only not the inebriated kind), lets just say I wanted him to invade my personal space on a Mark Henaghan level.

Turns out, to my delight, he was *plot twist* a second year and even better, was still living in a hall. My international man of mystery was also pretty fresh to New Zealand, so I thought it only fair to apply some undue influence to down our wine to test his cultural assimilation. In hindsight, this was an error of judgment; he passed the test but I was on the verge of passing out. The chain of causation that then led us to a bar somewhere in the wider Octagon vicinity (unclear).

What I do know is we drank something akin to methylated spirits, and I am estopped from recalling what happened thereafter. On a request for discovery the next day, my charming date informed me some expelling of bodily fluids in a bathroom was involved (take from that what you will). As for where the rest of the night took us, I am not one to cougar and tell but … res ispa loquitor.

On a side note, I hope my date fleeing the country a few days after our rendezvous is unrelated to the night’s events. Watch this space. 


Editors note: The following day, this charming female ‘accidentally’ sent me a text saying: “P.s. I’ve been getting with 4th years”. She later said: “I would like to affirm my stance as a big advocate of ‘getting with’ younger students for study purposes, and I would encourage readers to do the same.”

Him.

In typical Dunedin fashion, the night kicked off to Jayfly’s Do You Like Jungle blaring from the speakers, while my mate, dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and speedsters, enthusiastically passed me drink after drink. It was like the Olympics, but for my liver.

Once the clock hit quarter to eight, I stumbled out the door and scrambled onto my bike, zooming down to Captain James Cook’s very own Velvet Burger. As the cool autumn breeze blew through my hair, and the moonlight illuminated the road before me, I realized that, like Lance Armstrong, someone should have banned me from using my bicycle that evening. Nonetheless, with a hand-picked bouquet of flowers in one hand, and a bottle of wine secured tightly in my bicycle’s water bottle holder, I rode further into the night.

At Velvet, my date (X) and I were quickly paired and brought down to an intimate corner of the restaurant, where I presented her with her bouquet of assorted vegetation – she seemed delighted. From that moment onwards, both the conversation and the wine flowed like the waters of the Waikato river. X turned out to be absolutely lovely, with fantastic chat, a beautiful smile, and striking eyes. Mid-way through the meal, we forgot about the food altogether and began trying to out-drink each other instead; that vino hit us like a train.

We then agreed to head down to a nearby whiskey bar; big mistake. A sip of whiskey deep and I had to be excused to the bathroom, where I proceeded to redecorate the walls and floors with my spew. Then, peacefully, like a faun in the forest, I lay down to take a nap on the restroom floor. I would love to tell you about how I heroically resuscitated and went on to taking X home, but nope. As I awoke from my snooze, my dreams, hopes, and fantasies for the night lay on the floor beside me, in the shape of a puddle of vomit. By then, X had gone home. Anti-climactic, I know.

Moral of the story, everyone deserves a second chance. X let’s go another date?

Thanks to SOULS for the evening! 10/10 would recommend.

Behind Bars: Volunteering at the Otago Corrections Facility

Behind Bars: My time in the Otago Corrections Facility – Written by Jasper Fawcett.

It’s pretty cool to be able to tell your friends that you’re going to prison. I don’t mean actually going to prison – that would not be cool at all. No, I’m talking about going to prison as a volunteer. While I initially signed up for prison volunteering solely so that I could send texts like “Mum, don’t freak out, but I’m going to prison”, I found that by the end of my time at the Otago Corrections Facility (OCF) I had felt happy, sad, entertained, and deeply moved (sometimes all at the same time).

These feelings started during the induction. An hour-long session, run by Corrections officers, designed to put us on our guard so that we wouldn’t “get got” by the inmates. We were warned of all sorts of things they might try – even things as simple as asking us to post a letter for them, asking us for legal advice, or asking us to give them our pen (as some types of pen could potentially be turned into a makeshift tattoo device).

ocf-image-2

Nevertheless, an apprehensive bunch of law students drove out to the ‘Milton Hilton’ for our first prison encounter. Reassuringly, all of the guards were friendly and had great senses of humour. We were given panic buttons that we could push if we felt uncomfortable (or, as one of the guards put it, “if someone runs at you with a knife, haha”). The facilities at OCF are amazing. It has underfloor heating, the buildings are modern, and the grounds are immaculately kept. It seems more like an adult-filled primary school than a prison. After a few weeks, the place seemed relatively normal (except for the security scanners at the entrance and the barbed wire fences). And, after talking to the inmates, we began to realise that they were relatively normal too. Yes, they’d made mistakes, and yes, some of them were in too deep to get out – but looking past that, the vast majority of them were just a bunch of human beings, trying to make the most of the hand that life had dealt them.

I spent most of my time in the music group, though I also spent a memorable few weeks playing ‘prison Jenga’ (don’t ask) with the remand prisoners. In the music room, I got to play with those prisoners who had been granted the privilege of playing in the prison band (they have a full drum kit, piano, and electric and bass guitars). Some of us were even lucky enough to witness the OCF version of The X Factor (‘The Chur Factor’) – and we were absolutely blown away. The prisoners’ songs were performed with such talent and such emotion that a number were reduced to tears, as they rapped or sang about the mistakes they had made in their life and how they vowed to do better.

All this humility and emotion showed us the importance of second chances and new beginnings. OCF does an incredible job of recognising this, and they provide a wealth of opportunities for prisoners to channel their aggression and emotions. NZQA qualifications in carpentry, engineering, agriculture, hospitality and baking are all available to those who want to have skills and qualifications for employment on release. Prisoners cook all the food for the prison, make toys for children, build animal traps for the Department of Conservation, weld rubbish skips together, and maintain one of the highest quality dairy farms in the country.

As well as witnessing these amazing initiatives, we also laughed, a lot. The prisoners have incredible senses of humour and they love to talk – particularly because we were a bunch of new faces in their otherwise predictable daily lives. They pleaded for us to bring them McDonald’s, and blue milk (they hate green). They told us, while struggling to keep straight faces, that their favourite TV show is Prison Break, and that their favourite movie is The Shawshank Redemption. Just as we would go to leave, they’d tell us yet another entertaining, too-offensive-to-publish, and possibly made-up, story. Like music, humour seemed to be a way in which they all coped with their situation.

ocf-image-1

The thought of leaving the prison was a strange one. We would be going back to our freedom, where we could eat and drink all the McDonald’s and blue milk that we wanted. They were locked away in their cells, knowing that they would be checked through the night and woken at 7am the next morning for unlock. We all take freedom for granted – but it pays to remember that there are some people, just down the road, whose lives are not their own.

Volunteering at OCF was the most rewarding and eye-opening thing I’ve ever done. Particularly as a law student, the importance of seeing what life is like ‘on the other side’ cannot be overstated. I would strongly encourage you all to give it a try – don’t be put off by the horror stories or the rules. You’ll be safe at all times, you’ll have a lot of fun, and you might just find it’s one of the best things you ever do!

The prison is particularly interested in volunteers with art, mediation, music, drama and fitness skills.

If you are interested in volunteering at OCF, keep an eye on your emails for upcoming Law for Change meetings. You can also follow their Facebook page (Law for Change Otago) for updates.

Written by Jasper Fawcett.

Flatting Tips from the SOULS Tenancy Program

The No BS Simple Guide to Flatting – Written by Mario Thorne & Adam Van Heezik.

 

Flatting. It can be fun. Or it can be shit… Soo shit. Chances are, not everyone is going to have it good, so here’s some quick advice on some issues and questions that often crop up during the free SOULS Tenancy advice sessions.

1) The tenancy agreement must be in writing, and can either proscribe a periodic or fixed-term tenancy

No doubt most people have already signed this. In any case, it is important to understand what type of agreement you have signed. Either, it’s a periodic tenancy, where the tenancy continues until either the tenants or landlord give notice they wish to discontinue the tenancy; or (more likely), it’s a fixed-term tenancy, where there is a set end date.

A fixed-term tenancy turns into a periodic tenancy at the end of the agreement unless the landlord or tenant gives notice they wish to end the tenancy to the other 21-90 days before the set end date.

2) Upon signing a bond lodgement form, the bond can be paid either to the landlord or directly to Tenancy Services.

Bond must not be more than 4 weeks worth of rent. If the bond is paid to the landlord, they must give the tenant a receipt for the bond and pay it to Tenancy Services within 23 working days.

3) At the end of the tenancy, if the landlord and tenants are in agreement that everything is good, the bond can be fully refunded upon completing a bond refund form.

If the landlord isn’t happy about the state of the place (e.g. careless damage done), or there is unpaid rent due, then the parties may agree to split the bond to cover costs of repair etc.

4) Your responsibilities include:

  • Paying rent on time
  • Keeping the premises reasonably clean and tidy
  • Letting the landlord know as soon as possible if damage is discovered or repairs are needed
  • Paying power, gas, telephone and internet charges
  • Not intentionally or carelessly damaging the place
    • This includes damage done by visitors allowed on the property

5) The Landlords responsibilities include:

  • Providing the place in a reasonably clean state
  • Keeping the premises in a reasonable state of repair
  • Compliance with building, health and safety requirements
  • Compensating the tenant for repairs that the tenant has had done when the repairs were serious and urgent or likely to cause injury to persons or property, the required repairs were not the tenant’s fault, and the tenant made a reasonable attempt to contact the landlord to do them
  • Providing and maintaining locks necessary to make the premises secure
  • Not changing the locks without the tenant’s permission
  • Giving the tenant written notice if he or she puts the property up for sale
  • Providing an agent if they are out of New Zealand for more than 21 consecutive days.

6) The Landlord must give 48-hours’ notice before inspection of the premises.

If repairs or maintenance are required, they only need give 24-hours’ notice. They can also enter if you give permission or there is an emergency.

7) Tenants are jointly and severally liable.

If for whatever reason there are problems with the premises that the tenants are responsible for, the landlord can choose to make all the tenants responsible for remedying it, or just one tenant.

8) Issues between the landlord and tenants can be sorted out either; by agreement, or through mediation, or through the Tenancy Tribunal.

Mediation is provided by Tenancy Services, and the mediator helps parties discuss the problem and tries to guide them towards a solution. If that doesn’t work, the parties can go to the Tenancy Tribunal, where a hearing will take place in front of an adjudicator and the parties will get a chance to tell their side of the story. The parties usually must represent themselves.

If you have any further questions, the SOULS Tenancy Program is here to help, where you can get free advice on almost anything tenancy related from practicing lawyers. Sessions will begin mid-March. Check us out on Facebook in the meantime.

Written by Mario Thorne and Adam van Heezik.

 

Welcome to Law School from the Dean

Dear Otago Law Students,

Welcome back to those returning and welcome to all of you arriving in the Faculty of Law for the first time. Congratulations to Jasper Fawcett for producing this Welcome to Law School magazine.

The Otago Faculty of Law is a place of learning about law and how to use law to solve problems. Law plays a major role in our society, affecting all aspects of life from the personal, to property, business, the environment, the family, the community, government finance, life and death, taxes, human rights and international relations. Well trained lawyers play a crucial role in ensuring that our own society is governed by law rather than by personal power. In our tradition, the law is primarily created by the democratic process in which our citizens can participate. Parliament has the final say in what the law is and we all participate in electing Parliament through the voting process.

Your ability to serve the law will start here in the Faculty of Law. Develop good habits that will last you a lifetime. There are no shortcuts to learning your legal skills. You must read legal material carefully and thoughtfully. You must take the time to think through how the legal material can be justifiably interpreted and applied to legal problems. Legal research skills can only be acquired by doing a lot of it. Just as writing skills improve by writing a lot and then analysing critically whether what you are saying makes sense, we only learn by doing things and reflecting on our mistakes so we do them better next time.

The collegial atmosphere of the Otago Faculty of Law means that you will have the full support of the Faculty of Law and fellow law students as you work hard on your legal skills. Do not fall into the trap that the notes or work of others will get you ahead. They won’t.  Just as you can’t get fit by watching others at the gym or borrowing their training diary and pretending you have done it yourself, you can’t develop the muscles in your legal brain by relying on the work of others. It is far better to learn from your mistakes than fool yourself by relying on the work of others.

We strongly encourage you to debate and argue with your colleagues but when it comes to writing up legal opinions and assignments, and completing take-home tests, it must all be your own work. Integrity is essential to the worth of a lawyer’s work. People will rely on you and put total trust in you. Honesty is crucial.

I encourage you all to take a full and active part in all the Faculty of Law activities – academic, cultural, social and spiritual. Enter law student competitions, attend public lectures on law, volunteer for the Community Law Centre, be part of the law revue, volunteer at the Ngai Tahu Maori Law Centre, sign up for SOULS, Te Roopu Whai Putake and PILSA, join Law for Change, volunteer for community organisations, play sport, and take part in political debate.

I wish you all a productive year full of challenges, hard work, friendship, generosity and learning.

Written by Mark Henaghan.