By Sutherland, Oliver
Over half of those locked up in our prisons are Maori - are non-Pakeha people treated fairly by our police and courts? In the 1960s and '70s, thousands of young New Zealanders were arrested, charged and processed by children's courts for a variety of mostly minor offences. Few ha...d access to lawyers. Most pleaded guilty. Many were Maori and Pasifika. About 4000 children a year were put into social welfare homes, as state wards or until sentencing. Hundreds each year were held on remand in adult prisons. At each step closer to borstal, the proportion of Maori became greater, reaching over 80% for Maori girls. Children considered seriously out of control were sent to Lake Alice Hospital. They received repeated courses of electroconvulsive therapy and were disciplined with 'aversive' electric shocks to their bodies. To oppose this abuse of largely Maori and Pacific Island children, Oliver Sutherland and a small group of Pakeha formed the Auckland Committee on Racism and Discrimination, ACORD, in 1973. For 15 years ACORD exposed and campaigned against the institutional racism of the police, justice and social welfare systems. It laid the groundwork for a national duty solicitor scheme and gained protections for children incarcerated by the state. Equally oppressive was the police 'Task Force', formed in 1974 ostensibly to combat street violence in Auckland. Thousands were arrested - around 80% of them Maori or Pasifika - but the initiative had no impact on 'street violence'; most arrests were for minor offences. Oliver Sutherland's memoir tells the story of these campaigns against injustice and describes cases that graphically substantiate them.Read more
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Oliver Sutherland is a retired scientist who studied at the University of Canterbury, then at Cambridge University and the University of California (Berkeley). He joined the Department of Scientific & Industrial Research in Nelson in 1969, remaining with the department and then Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research until 2003. On returning from study overseas he joined the Nelson Maori Committee, established the Nelson Race Relations Action Group and, in 1973, the Auckland Committee on Racism and Discrimination. In the mid-1980s Oliver led a challenge to the mono-culturalism of the science sector and helped conceive and frame the Native Flora and Fauna Claim to the Waitangi Tribunal (Wai 262).
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