Conferencing in a Covid world

IAWJ 2021 

Although our borders remain largely closed, it didn’t stop over 1000 judicial officers from around the globe coming together to enhance their learning and strengthen their connections at the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) Conference in Auckland last month.

The IAWJ conference is held every second year to share experiences and ideas for best practice in areas such as promoting human rights and combating domestic violence, discrimination and gender bias, both within the judiciary and the world at large.

With the theme ‘celebrating diversity’, it was fitting that the 2021 conference attracted such a wide range of speakers and attendees with over 90 jurisdictions represented. The Judicial Pacific Participation Fund (JPPF) supported 56 female judicial officers from around the Pacific to virtually attend. Some came together in a shared space to recreate the camaraderie that a conference can bring; sharing kai and sharing experiences while others attended singularly from home.

In one of the keynote sessions, Family Court Judge Mary O’Dwyer led a question-and-answer segment where five senior judges were asked about the obstacles they’d encountered on their way to the top, and how they were championing diversity on their respective benches. Read their responses as published in LawNews.

The session on alternative courts included speakers from around the world talking about how they have approached alternative courts in their various jurisdictions. Justice Ali Shah from Pakistan explained how they took a gendered lens to establishing a dedicated gender-based violence court, Judge Marlo Malagar delivered harrowing statistics from the Philippines illustrating the inequities of the female experience in incarceration. Magistrate Pauline Spencer explained the evolution of thinking about alternative courts in Victoria, Australia while New Zealand Judge Denise Clark talked about the work she has led with Te Kooti Rangatahi -- youth courts held on marae --  and Judge Jane McMeeken discussed the Christchurch Youth Court and the work being done to consider the wellbeing and best interests of youth to improve both their prospects and potential contribution to society. In the final session, Judge Rosella Papalii talked about the use of Drug Courts in Samoa. Read the full article published by the New Zealand Law Society.

Although participating in conferences virtually is a new thing to many of us, sharing experience and learning is still beneficial. We share some feedback from our Pacific IAWJ participants:

‘It was an excellent experience for me meeting so many women judges from all over the world. I enjoyed and learned so much from other participant's experiences and issues. I especially like the Regional Forum where I got to meet my counterparts from other Asian and Pacific countries. I hope RMI could have more women judges so we could organize our in country group. I hope to be a part conferences of the IAWJ's in the near future. Thank you.’
‘It was a very useful conference, new things/ topics I learned from the sessions, this includes human rights, ways a judge can apply when LGBQT person(s) comes to court, barrier women faced when accessing justice etc. The conference gives me new ideas, skills and knowledge that are useful to my roles and responsibilities as a woman magistrate.’

‘There are many experiences and issues that were mentioned, and which made me reflect on my professional career and the environment within which I am working.’

‘It was eye-opening to learn about the IAWJ and the member associations, and the network/resources available through them - we will reach out to learn more about the membership requirements and decide whether or not we set up a association of women judges. It was inspiring to learn about and get ideas from the initiatives women judges have underway all over the world.’

‘The benefit of being away from everything else also allowed us to reflect on the predicament of our other Sisters from the Pacific especially our Sisters from PNG and India with COVID-19 and Afghanistan from violent and senseless killing.’

‘Staying together also cemented ties as coming together and bonding is a rarity because of our own work and personal commitments.’

‘I thank you for the idea of coming together in one central place to participate in IAWJ meeting. It was not until we came together and participated and bonded that we realized that it is so important for us as a group to meet and discuss issues pertaining to the development of women judges and judges in general.’

CMJA Conference Sept 12-15 2021

As we look ahead to future conferences, the Commonwealth Magistrates' and Judges' Association (CMJA) is also hosting its 2021 conference virtually. With the theme, ‘post-pandemic innovations’, the conference takes place September 12-15 2021. You can read the CMJA programme here.

If you wish to attend JPPF can assist with registration fees but spaces are limited. Please discuss with your head of bench, and complete our quick Application for professional development opportunity form. But please do not register on the conference website until you hear back from us. We have particular instructions regarding payment that you will need to follow when registering. The cut-off date for seeking financial assistance to attend is Monday 5 July and decisions about funding will be made soon after. We may not be able to provide financial assistance if you apply after that date. 

If you have further questions or problems accessing our form, please contact us.