JustSpeak – Rallying for Justice

JustSpeak, ‘a youth-led movement for transformative change in criminal justice towards a fair, just and compassionate Aotearoa’, has a very important kaupapa. Connecting young people with opportunities, empowering them to have a voice in the conversation, cultivating public discussion based on evidence and experience, and advocating for positive and visionary change, is at the heart of their mahi.

This Wellington-based charity was established in 2011 and is founded on the following whakatauki:

Mā te tika o te toki, o te tangere, me te tohu o te panaho, ka pai te tere o te waka i ngā momo moana katoa.

By designing and shaping the keel of the waka to perfection, your canoe will overcome obstacles.

JustSpeak has a vision for positive and visionary change in the criminal justice system and its work to achieve this involves advocacy, hosting public events and workshops, publishing reports, and collaborating with external organisations.

The small team that runs JustSpeak is conscious that while the scope and impact of their work has grown quickly through the commitment, energy and passion of those involved in the early years, it’s important that the long-term sustainability of the organisation is at the forefront.

“Our challenge has been to cope with the amount of interest our work has received, especially being a largely volunteer-driven organisation. At times, it has probably looked to outsiders like we were a much larger organisation than we really were in reality! So, sustainability is something we always need to keep in mind: how to ensure that people don’t burn out and how to keep bringing new people into the fold as others move on to the next phases of their life or work,” says Tania Sawicki Mead, Director – JustSpeak.

Approaching the mahi they do with the knowledge that many voices working in harmony can have a huge impact, they’ve mobilised young people to action and catalysed significant change.

“We were really thrilled to have played a significant role in the successful campaign calling on Government to include 17-year olds in the youth justice system. It’s so important to see tangible outcomes from our advocacy that will have lifelong impacts for young people.

More recently, we were involved in campaigning against the development of a billion-dollar mega prison at Waikeria. We’re really pleased that this will no longer be going ahead and that a large portion of the money and resources will hopefully be invested in more effective interventions.
One of the biggest outcomes is the hardest to measure though, and that’s the slow but crucial shift in public opinion on criminal justice and the support for evidence-based alternatives. We take some (certainly not all!) credit for that, and for the urgency with which the new Government has tackled some of the major failures in our justice system,” says Tania.

The J R McKenzie Trust is proud to support JustSpeak’s important mahi around criminal justice, including the recently launched JustSpeak project, Kōrero Pono – The Voices of Lived Experience. This upcoming multi-media art exhibition which will include haka, interviews, videos, written text and photography, is the first of its kind within an Aotearoa New Zealand context. It’s designed to generate new narratives concerning the criminal justice system that reduce stigma. The stories will function to challenge the beliefs and prejudices that many New Zealanders hold regarding individuals who have been caught up in the justice system, and will provide a valuable, experience-based resource for the public.

JustSpeak has big plans for the next 12 months including youth-led justice workshops in schools, the launch of research around Māori experiences in the justice system, and collaboration with other advocacy groups to explore the role of media in shaping public attitudes. With a focus on providing tools, spaces and resources to help a larger and more diverse group of young people lead the debate on justice reform, we’re sure that JustSpeak will be the catalyst for the achievement of many great things.

Click here to visit JustSpeak’s website.