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Future lawyers – be an ally to those struggling

Earlier this year the New Zealand Law Society established a five-member working group  “to look at the processes for reporting and taking action on harassment and inappropriate behaviour in legal workplaces.”

One of the members is UC School of Law Professor Elisabeth McDonald who shares her thoughts on what it means to be a part of the working group, and has a message for future law students.

Q1:  What does it mean to you professionally/personally to be appointed to this working group?

I was encouraged to put in an expression of interest for one of the two lawyer positions on the group – because of my long-standing research interest in the prosecution of sexual offences and my interaction with students as an academic.

There are many others in the profession who would have much to add to this work, so I consequently feel significant personal pressure to make an effective contribution to these discussions. I feel privileged to have been appointed and will certainly make sure that my experience and research adds value to this task.

As the group of five is lacking somewhat in age and cultural diversity, I hope that there will be robust consultation with a wide range of practitioners and aspiring lawyers. What I do see in my research is some disconnect between the experiences of young people and those charged with decision-making that impacts on them – especially with regard to what is contemporary behaviour around intimate relationships, communication and expectations.

I also feel that lawyers can tend to be very process-driven in ways that might come across as dismissive to people who want their experiences to be heard and validated.

Q2: The topic of harassment or inappropriate workplace behaviour within the legal profession has experienced a high media profile. What is the ‘take home message’ you have for our UC students considering a career in the legal profession.

I have just read an excellent interview with three law students at Victoria as they contemplate graduating and entering the profession. They all express concern about the culture of the profession and hope that this moment (as a consequence of the events at Russell McVeagh being publicised) will result in real difference – while also importantly noting that individual students, like individual lawyers, are not often well-placed to complain or ask for  change.

I would say, do not be put off entering the profession – especially those who have been motivated to do so because they wish to contribute to law reform or making a difference more broadly.

However, make sure you make connections with others who can support you – keep in touch with your colleagues from law school, make new contacts within the various lawyers associations (especially Young Lawyers and Women Lawyers) – be an ally to those who are struggling for whatever reason (culture, sexual orientation, gender identity) and be kind to yourselves.

The first years out of law school, like most first jobs, will be exhausting and unfamiliar – but hopefully also exhilarating. Remember why you wanted to be a lawyer – and try to stay true to that dream.

Understanding Ramadan: 15 May – 14 June

Ramadan is an important festival for the Muslim faith, and this year will go from the 15 May until the 14 June. Wasim Khan, a doctoral student at UC and member of the UC Muslim Student Association, explains what Ramadan means for UC’s Islamic community.

“Ramadan is a month in which Muslims are obliged to fast as God Almighty says in Quran’s chapter 2, verse 183, “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed upon you as it was ordained to those before you, so that you learn self-restraint.

Ramadan is also the month of the revelation of Holy Quran. Fasting is the fourth pillar of Islam, among the five pillars. Fasting means no eating, drinking, husband-wife relationship, or immoral activities (lies, cheating etc)  from dawn till sunset. These are the basis of why we Muslims fast and what makes Ramadan important.

Next is the role of fasting in personal lives and society. The main aim of fasting is to train ourselves how to abstain from what God Almighty has ordered us to stay away. It is a practice for spiritual elevation and having more control on our desires as we are the best judge for ourselves since no one knows whether we are fasting or not.

From society’s perspective, Ramadan is a month of giving and taking special care of poor people around us. Paying Zakat (alms-giving), which is one of the five pillars of Islam, is encouraged in Ramadan. Spending a lot for charity is also encouraged in Ramadan. So overall Ramadan is a month (a) to be a better person, (b) more self conscious with spiritual elevation, (c) controlling desires and bad habits, (d) experiencing how it feels when we are hungry like many of the people around us, (e) equality for rich and poor; (f) lastly it is now common in various countries to practice “intermittent fasting”, so we can understand the health benefits of Fasting based on the scientific research conducted so far.

On campus we arrange five prayers at our Musallah (prayer room) at 37 Creyke Road, and we arrange Iftar (breaking the fast) and dinner for over 100 students. This gives us an opportunity to spend time and pray together for the whole month, which is an exciting experience we share at UC during Ramadan.

Ramadan Kareem!

You are my sunshine – staying well in winter

UC Health Centre Nurse Wendy Risdon says the sun’s rays are free and essential for life – and there is research that supports the need for some sun exposure in winter.

You would be excused for thinking all you need to do to stay well this winter is have a flu vaccination. How about the virtues of good old soap and water when handwashing and a daily dose of sunshine?

The sun’s rays are free and essential for life. It is the sun on bare skin that creates vitamin D which strengthens the immune system and is essential for the regulation of hundreds of body processes. It is hard to obtain enough vitamin D from dietary sources alone though there is some in fatty fish, egg yolk, organ meats or cod liver oil, the best utilized source is the sun.

This is a reason to leave your office or work place at lunch time because in winter UVB rays aren’t strong enough in the early morning or late afternoon to trigger vitamin D production, only at midday or when the sun is at least 30 degrees above the horizon. This happens to be the exact time some experts tell us to stay out of the sun!


You need 10-30 minutes of sun exposure, depending on skin pigmentation, in the middle of the day. This can improve mood, help depression and actually decrease cancer risk. It can also help with fat loss, building muscle and blood sugar control.

So where is my evidence? A recent review, led by the Queen Mary University of London, looked at 11,321 people across 25 separate trials in order to see if there was any definitive correlations present in this regard. These studies looked at a range of infections, from common cold strains to full-blown influenza.

They came to the conclusion that, for every 33 people regularly taking Vitamin D supplements as part of a balanced diet, one of them would not experience a cold or flu infection during the year. This would make it more effective than the flu vaccination.

Overall, extended to the entire UK, this works out to be three million people without the sniffles. This would not just be great for their own health, but would be a huge boost to the British economy in terms of work hours not lost to sickness. I am sure we could extrapolate this out to have a similar impact in New Zealand.

If you can get outside regularly around midday, in winter and spring you don’t need a Vitamin D supplement, but if you are office or library bound, day after day, you are likely to be low in Vitamin D and susceptible to colds and flu and other respiratory illnesses.

So my Winter Wellness tip is to take regular small doses of sunshine and watch your health improve.

Wendy Risdon