Trailblazing women judges tell their stories to help advance diversity

by Sol Dolor01 Sep 2017
The “New Zealand Women Judges Oral Histories Project” has been archived at the Alexander Turnbull Library Collections at the National Library of New Zealand.

The New Zealand Association of Women Judges symbolically handed over the project to the library on 28 August in Wellington, according to the New Zealand Law Society.

Co-convened by Dame Susan Glazebrook and Dame Judith Potter, the project includes interviews with Dame Augusta Wallace, who became the first woman to become a New Zealand judge after her appointment to the District Court bench in 1975; Dame Lowell Goddard, who, along with Dame Sian Elias, became the first woman to be appointed Queen’s Counsel in New Zealand in 1988; and Dame Silvia Cartwright, who became the first woman District Court chief judge in 1989 and the first woman to be appointed to the High Court in 1993.

“It’s our hope that the oral histories will shed light on the factors that led to the interviewees’ success in the law, but also highlight factors that might inhibit women’s progression, and particularly those from diverse cultural backgrounds,” Glazebrook said. “We hope that this project as a whole will make an important contribution to increasing diversity in the legal profession and the judiciary.”

The oral histories offer a more intimate experience for listeners, said Diane Woods, a librarian of the Alex Turnbull Library.

“People can read articles, they can read newspapers to get the feel of what was happening in this first part of the 21st century … but it’s going to be their voices, their words, their pauses, their recollections, so it makes it a very personal contact with the history of our time,” she said.

The New Zealand Law Foundation and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage funded the project.

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