“When I was doing my law degree I did the Treaty of Waitangi, which I really enjoyed and it had a focus on indigenous people’s rights. Not so much focus on New Zealand, but looking at the wider picture. I was really interested in that – so after working a few years in London I decided that I would explore working in human rights.
I applied directly to a human rights NGO in Cambodia, I didn’t really know what I was expecting. I did an interview and then three weeks later I was in Cambodia. I was kinda thrown in the deep end, that was 2016, I was there for 6 months. It was a completely voluntary job, but they needed someone who was a qualified lawyer.

On my first day a woman came and spoke to us who had had her land stolen by the government. It’s called an economic land concession, the way that it was done was very arbitrary. Basically; ‘here’s $1000 USD, we’re going to take your land’. The land is worth more than $1000 because they have cultural and spiritual connections. She had a really impassioned speech, it was all in Khmer but they had a translator so I could hear through microphones. She was in tears, yeah, that was quite shock on my first day.

I also worked on a project there where transgender women were targeted by police, being locked in jail with no charges and all their rights taken away. We had to help a transgender woman get out of jail. I arrived in September 2016 and she’d been in jail since May for apparently stealing tourist’s sunglasses. We managed to get her out, so there were some big wins like that.

I think all in all, we’re doing quite well in Christchurch. We should stand up and appreciate what we have, and build on that. The Government is really trying to address mental health, which to me is a big thing. I think that’s something we noticed from the earthquakes, maybe people weren’t being looked after as well as they could have. That’s the kiwi spirit, we’re quite pragmatic but we also like to look out for each other.

I think we should all take two minutes each day, take a deep breath. Be cognicent that you live in probably the best country in the world, there’s no corruption here. It doesn’t matter what you look like, who you are or what your religion is, there’s so much freedom. It’s not to make you feel guilty, but the best thing you can do is show gratitude for what you have and where you live.”

– Jack

#World Human Rights Day.

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