Remarkable Auckland Law School alumni receive prestigious scholarships

08 June 2018

Auckland Law School alumni Rez Gardi and Kate Stone have both been awarded a Fulbright New Zealand General Graduate Award and a New Zealand Law Foundation Ethel Benjamin scholarship for outstanding women lawyers. Taylor Burgess has also been awarded a New Zealand Law Foundation Ethel Benjamin scholarship for outstanding women lawyers.

Fulbright New Zealand General Graduate Awards are for promising New Zealand graduate students to undertake postgraduate study or research at US institutions in any field. This year’s grantees will head to the United States this August after being honoured at the annual Fulbright New Zealand Awards Ceremony at Parliament on Monday 18 June 2018, hosted by Rt. Hon Winston Peters. The Fulbright programme aims to promote mutual understanding through educational and cultural exchanges.

The New Zealand Law Foundation Ethel Benjamin scholarships honour Ethel Benjamin, New Zealand’s first woman barrister and solicitor, who was admitted to the bar in 1897.  They are awarded to postgraduate women who hold a law degree and have been accepted into a postgraduate law course in either New Zealand or overseas.


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Rez Gardi

Rez Gardi was born in a refugee camp in Pakistan to Kurdish activist parents. Her experiences there have shaped her world view, leading to her determination to make a difference.

“The circumstances I was born into have shaped my interest in peace, security, and humanitarian action,” says Rez. “I learnt about injustice and the denial of human rights long before I knew what those concepts meant. This instilled in me the importance of standing up for what is right, even when your life is on the line. As the daughter of human rights activists, an engrained passion for equality and justice inspired me to pursue a career in law. I wanted to understand the power of law to create positive change.”

Rez studied at the University of Auckland, gaining a BA (double majoring in International Relations/Political Studies and Criminology) and a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), and is currently working as a legal officer with the Human Rights Commission. Her advocacy work with national and international groups over the past three years led to her being named Young New Zealander of the Year in 2017.

Rez will complete a Master of Laws in human rights and international law at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


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Kate Stone

Kate Stone gained a BA (Hons) in political science, before completing her LLB at Victoria University of Wellington, then an LLM (Hons), specialising in human rights law, from the University of Auckland.

She intends to study law and social change, focusing on criminal justice system reform. Currently working as Crown Counsel for the constitutional and human rights, and Treaty of Waitangi and Māori legal issues teams in the Crown law Office, Kate has advocated extensively for criminal justice reform, including co-founding the NGO JustSpeak.

“I intend to study the conditions necessary to support civil society to organise and mobilise in pursuit of social change and the effective use of legal tools in this area,” she says.

“The heritage of the civil rights and other social justice movements in the US provide a unique environment within which to develop my understanding of the opportunities for, and barriers to, using the law as a tool for social change.”

Kate will complete a Masters of Laws specializing human rights, and law and social change at Columbia University in New York City, New York.


Taylor Burgess

Taylor Burgess plans to pursue her interest in public health and human rights law in her LLM studies. She graduated from the University of Auckland with a BA (Philosophy) and a Bachelor of Laws (Honours), graduating top of her cohort. She is currently an Assistant Crown Counsel in the Crown Law Office, acting for the Ministry of Health and Oranga Tamariki on public, administrative and constitutional law matters.

“I plan to write an independent research paper that examines how the New Zealand Courts should strike a balance between government powers and individual rights in the contemporary public health environment,” says Taylor.

Recent debate and legal challenges on public health issues such as the right of government to intervene in matters such as the fluoridation of drinking water supply have highlighted the importance of this field of study.

“On the one hand, the government is entrusted with intrusive powers to act in the collective interests of the populace… On the other hand, public health powers intrude into the private sphere of an individual and engage the fundamental values of privacy, personal autonomy and bodily integrity,” she says

“It is the perfect time to examine the Courts’ role in striking this balance and to develop a robust Bill of Rights framework for the future scrutiny of public health decision-making in New Zealand.”

Taylor will complete a Masters of Laws at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

The school extends its congratulations and best wishes to these outstanding alumni.