Indian Lawyers Dinner

CHA Restaurant, Auckland
7 Sep 2007

Your Honours, Ladies and Gentlemen: Greetings, Kia Ora, Kia Orana, Fakalofa Lahi Atu, Taloha Ni

May I in particular acknowledge the co-ordinating team for this function of Shobhna Golian, Harjeet Golian, Usha Patel,Fazilat Shah, Mahesh Lala, Jaswin Gandhi and Nick Malarao who have assisted Judge Ajit Singh; Practitioners, Spouses;Guests; Ladies and Gentlemen. To you all I say: Namaste, Namashkar, Sat Sri Akal, Kam Cho.

First, I would like to thank you for inviting my wife Susan and I to attend the Indian Lawyers Dinner in Auckland this evening.  This, I understand is the second such dinner to be organised and it is so good to see so many familiar faces.

Secondly, it is particularly pleasing to see so many legal practitioners of Indian origin all in one place here tonight.  Your numbers speak volumes of how New Zealand's Indian community has changed. If a similar dinner had been held when I graduated with law degree in 1970, it would have been a much smaller gathering with Lalbhai Patel, Thakorbhai Parbhu, Raman Ganda, Kanti Balu and I probably being "it" for Auckland and when the national figure would have been fewer than twelve.

Your presence here tonight also reflects the increasing diversity of New Zealand's population.  The cultural, ethnic and religious mix in our country is changing rapidly.  More than one in five people living in New Zealand today were born overseas.   In 1901 about 80 percent of all overseas-born New Zealanders hailed from Britain and Ireland.  By the time of the 2006 Census, that had dropped to 28.6 percent—the same proportion as New Zealanders born in Asia.  The Indian population alone now stands at more than 104,000—a significant increase even on five years earlier.

This brings me to my third point, which is that diversity has not only enriched New Zealand's culture, but has also posed challenges.  As a Judge and Ombudsman, I am keenly aware of the challenges continuing to be posed for those involved in the law.

People in our increasingly diverse community all need adequate legal representation, whether that is in terms of property and commercial transactions, commercial and civil litigation, judicial review, or for those who have breached the criminal law. 

New migrants, in particular, who are often used to different legal systems, may find New Zealand's legal system baffling.  Assisting those people, so that they are fairly represented, is an onus on all those involved in the law—from the courts to law firms and individual practitioners.  The values of those new migrants may also conflict with the values of New Zealand's democratic and secular society and particularly its legal system.

I believe lawyers from the country's Indian community can play a key role in assisting New Zealand's legal system as it grapples with how to accommodate differences and values of those new to this country. May I offer a challenge for you to make your voice heard through participation in the New Zealand and district law societies, in submissions on law reforms and in other legal forums. 

In a rapidly changing society, there is also a need to engage with communities and to promote the rights and responsibilities of being a citizen in New Zealand's democracy.  Those with a legal background have much to offer in assisting community groups and by doing things like serving on local authorities and school boards. 

The best exhortation to be found for all of this, I suggest, is that of Mahatma Gandhi when he said "You must be the change you wish to see in the world".

Finally, I wish to commend the organisers and supporters of this evening.  Gatherings such as this are a fine opportunity through which to encourage young lawyers of Indian descent to participate in a fuller social, cultural and public life that reflects to some extent their heritage.

And on that note I'll close.  Thank you again for the invitation.  Dhanyavaad, Shukriya.

Tena koutou, kia ora, kia kaha, tena koutou katoa.
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