Welcome to the latest Human Rights Commission newsletter Tūrangawaewae – a summary of recent developments on the New Zealand human rights landscape, and the work the Commission is doing for a better, fairer New Zealand.
This issue covers why we need to create an education system that is inclusive of everyone, the release of the terms of reference for the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historic Abuse in State Care, our welcome for Saunoamaali’i Dr Karanina Sumeo, the Supreme Court’s Taylor decision and more.
Inclusive education produces better outcomes for all
In response to a New Zealand Herald editorial, the Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero wrote about the importance of creating an education system that is inclusive of everyone. She wrote that "disabled people make up 24 per cent of the population, but disabled children are not getting a fair go in the education system. That is a huge chunk of New Zealanders we are letting down". Read more here.
‘Having a voice matters … and others have to listen’, says Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner
Saunoamaali’i Dr Karanina Sumeo, our new Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner was profiled in Pasefika Proud about her role. She reflected on her journey to becoming the Commissioner, the situation for Pacifika peoples in New Zealand, the importance of employment and what she hopes to achieve in the role. Saunoamaali’i Dr Sumeo discusses how for Pacifika people’s: “A significant number are working their guts out on very low wages, especially in the sectors dominated by women … struggling to make ends meet, despite working for 50 to 60 hours a week on a minimum wage”. The way forward is: “to make your voice heard by being part of the democratic process”, says Saunoamaali’i Dr Sumeo. Read more here.
Royal Commission into historical abuse in state care terms of reference announced
Earlier in the month the Government announced the final terms of reference and the four other members of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into historical abuse. The main change to the draft terms of reference is the inclusion of historic abuse while in the care of faith-based institutions. Along with chair Sir Anand Satyanand, the Commissioners are: Ali'imuamua Sandra Alofivae, MNZM; Dr Andrew Erueti; former Disability Rights Commissioner Paul Gibson; and retired Judge Coral Shaw. We welcomed the Prime Minister’s commitment to fulfilling the expectations of those who called for this inquiry into abuse in care and acknowledged the expertise and experience of the Commissioners. This is a very significant step forward. The survivors who for so long have called for an inquiry deserve our unreserved acknowledgment for their strength. We owe it to the survivors to make sure that the wrongs of the past are never repeated. Read more here.
Landmark Supreme Court’s judgment in case of the Attorney-General v Taylor
On 9 November, the Supreme Court released its judgement concerning the case of Attorney-General v Taylor. The case concerns the right of prisoners to vote in general elections and the ability of the higher courts to issue declarations that legislation is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court found on the side of Taylor. The judgment strengthens New Zealand’s constitutional protection of human rights. The Commission’s Chief Legal Advisor Janet Anderson-Bidois said the Supreme Court’s judgment strengthens New Zealand’s constitutional protection of human rights. “The judgment could potentially lead to a wider range of people having access to the courts when they are pursuing a human rights matter that is in the broader public interest,” says Ms Anderson-Bidois. Read more here.
Leveraging procurement to protect human rights
Businesses have an important role to play in New Zealand upholding and protecting human rights. Jonathan To from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has called for more action on the “increased incidences of exploitation in New Zealand businesses, such as workers expected to work excessive hours without breaks or being paid well below the minimum wage if at all”. Rebekah Armstrong, our Research and Advisory Manager, and To suggested businesses write their own supplier code of conduct, clearly communicate expectations of behavior to your suppliers and reaffirm that they are responsible for high standards in their supply chains. Read more here.
Pōwhiri for new Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner
Earlier this month, we hosted a Pōwhiri and Ava Ceremony for our new Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, Saunoamaali’i Dr Karanina Sumeo. It was a unique blend of Māori and Samoan traditional ceremonies, to officially welcome our new Commissioner into the family. Our acting Chief Commissioner Paula Tesoriero said the Commission was excited to work with Saunoamaali’i as she brought new ideas and a fresh perspective to the role. “We are very proud to have Saunoamaali’i on board at Te Kāhui Tika Tangata - the Human Rights Commission, as she brings a strong advocacy background in the interests of children, women, families, the rainbow community, social protection, youth employment and gender equality. We are equally excited to have her Pasifika voice and leadership to strengthen human rights across all communities in Aotearoa New Zealand.” Read more here.
Seeking feedback on the National Plan of Action online tool
We are looking at updating our National Plan of Action - Mahere Rautaki ā-Motu - online human rights record monitoring tool. The tool was built around the 2014 Universal Periodic Review recommendations. With new recommendations coming in the 2019 Universal Periodic Review there is an opportunity to refresh the online tool. If you have used the National Plan of Action online tool before and would like to give feedback on your experience, we would welcome your views. The survey will remain open until 8 January. Click here to access a short survey and get in touch.
Human Rights Commission calls for new body to ensure pay transparency
The Human Rights Commission is calling for a new independent body to be set up to ensure transparency in reporting about pay equity. The Commission outlined the reasons for the new body in its submission to the Education and Workforce Committee on the Equal Pay Amendment Bill. Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Dr Karanina Sumeo said effective and accessible pay equity legislation is an important vehicle in eliminating the gender pay gap for vulnerable groups. Read more here.
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