Young New Zealander of the Year honour for graduate

23 February 2017
Rez Gardi

Recent Auckland Law School graduate Rez Gardi was named University of Auckland Young New Zealander of the Year at the 2017 New Zealander of the Year Awards In February (22 February 2017).

Rez is a lawyer and refugee of Kurdish descent who advocates for refugee rights. She graduated from the University of Auckland with a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and a Bachelor of Arts, double majoring in Political Studies and International Relations, and Criminology in 2016.  

Born in a refugee camp in Pakistan, Rez’s family were forced to flee their homeland to escape the persecution of Kurds. She spent the first six years of her life in the refugee camp before her family resettled in New Zealand.

Rez was the first in her family to finish secondary school and to attend university, and she is passionate about supporting young refugees and addressing the underrepresentation of refugee students in tertiary education.

She recently worked with the University of Auckland to establish three new scholarships for students from refugee backgrounds, as part of the For All Our Futures campaign.

Her Law Honours dissertation was on human rights violations against Kurds and the prospect of Kurdish statehood.

Rez is now New Zealand’s first Kurdish female lawyer and works in corporate litigation at law firm, Chapman Tripp, and has previously worked at the United Nations Office in Nairobi as a human rights intern. She also represented New Zealand at the Global Refugee Youth Consultations and annual UNHCR – NGO (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – Non-Government Organisation) consultation in Geneva last June.

The University of Auckland has sponsored the category of Young New Zealander of the Year for three years. This is the first time a University of Auckland alumni has won.

University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon spoke at the awards ceremony on Wednesday 22 February, congratulating the winners.

“The University is extremely proud to be associated with these outstanding New Zealanders. As a country we pride ourselves on equal access to education and Ms Gardi is a shining example of the transformative power of a tertiary qualification,” Professor McCutcheon says.