New foundation awards grants for legal research, further grants available

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A new foundation has been established focused on funding legal research, education and scholarship. The Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation has awarded its first five grants, including research awards on property law and the over-representation of Māori in prison. 

The foundation's Grants and Scholarship Committee Chair, David Goddard QC, said the foundation would focus "... on areas of profound concern – areas where the law is not serving New Zealanders well.” He also said that “The criminal justice system and family law are our initial strategic focus areas, and our inaugural grant recipients reflect these areas of concern.”

The first five grants are:

  • $614,420 over 1.5 years for He Whaipaanga Hou Update Research led by Moana Jackson. This grant supports the completion of a large-scale research project on the criminal justice system and effectiveness with regard to Māori, with a focus on why Māori men and women are imprisoned at high rates.
  • $492,000 over 3 years for Access to Justice through Digital Innovation. This grant funds the development of ChatBots on tenancy law, employment law and law related to prisoners' rights. It also supports Community Law Centres o Aotearoa resources on New Zealand law.
  • $577,225 over 2 years for Relationship Property Division Research at the University of Otago. This grant funds research into how separating couples divide their property and what New Zealanders see as fair and just when couples divide property after a relationship ends.
  • $43,210 for Whiti te Rā 2018 Hui. This grant, awarded to JustSpeak, supports a conference about transformative change in the criminal justice system. This work builds on Whiti Te Rā - a kaupapa Māori hui on transforming criminal justice in Aotearoa held last year.
  • $39,000 over three years for Borrin Foundation - Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga Summer Legal Research Internships. This will provide summer legal research internships in collaboration with Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga and focus on promoting Māori legal scholarship and nurturing young researchers.

The foundation will seek out individuals and organisations for grants and will also run an open expression of interest (EOI). The EOI process is scheduled to open on 14 March 2018. More details are available on the website. Details about applying for scholarships will be made available later this year.

The foundation has also launched an initiative to co-fund projects with the New Zealand Law Foundation

TheMichael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation was established through a $38 million bequest by the late Judge Ian Borrin in honour of his parents. Judge Borrin was a Family Court Judge and later head of the Police Complaints Authority (now the Independent Police Conduct Authority).

Related information and news

More than 30 leading academics have signed an open letter to the Government, calling on the Government to not build the planned $1 billion new prison in Waikeria.

In 2017, the Waitangi Tribunal found that the Crown has breached its Treaty obligations by failing to prioritise the reduction of Māori reoffending relative to non-Māori.

Also in 2017, former Corrections Minister Louise Upston launched a new approach to managing women offenders: Wahine - E rere ana ki te pae hou: Women's Strategy.

The Law Commission is currently reviewing and consulting on the Property (Relationships) Act 1976.

Selected media

Prison alternative worth reconsidering, Waatea News, 26.02.2018

Prison choice a test for Government, Waatea News, 26.02.2018

We can never naturalise or normalise the prison – Dr Tracey McIntosh, Māori Television, 22.02.2018

New Partnership promotes Māori legal scholarship, Press Release: Nga Pae o te Maramatanga, Scoop, 21.02.2018

Borrin grant will help make better law for separated couples, Press Release: Law Commission, Scoop, 21.02.2018

Windfall for Maori law research, Waatea News, 21.02.2018

Prisons under 'immense pressure' with only enough space for 300 more inmates, Stuff, 21.02.2018

Prison best home on offer, Waatea News, 21.02.2018

Want to help Māori? Rethink mega prison, Opinion: Tania Sawicki Mead, Director of JustSpeak, Radio NZ, 05.02.2018