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Students plan to “March on Midland”

Students plan to “March on Midland” to demand future workplaces free of sexual violence.

Victoria University students will march from their Law School grounds to Midland Park in protest of the sexual harassment and violence students, interns and graduates are subject to within the legal fraternity and professional services.

Stories of sexual violence and harassment in the workplace are increasing, as more survivors have the courage to come forward, and students are wanting to call out all professional services to be more accountable for shutting down this behaviour. This is following this year’s revelations about the treatment of interns and graduates while working for Russell McVeagh.

Students from the Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association (VUWSA), Victoria University of Wellington Law Students’ Society (VUWLSS) and the VUW Feminist Law Society (VUWFLS) will lead the “March on Midland: Rally to End Sexual Violence” on Thursday, 15 March to speak out against the toxic culture and power imbalance which is putting students and graduates at risk, particularly in the professional services.

Students are seeking three key outcomes from the rally:

for Russell McVeagh to be suspended from any further public work until their external review has been completed and they are held to the ethical standard that should be expected of firms advising the government.

for all law firms adopt the ‘students to-do list’, which includes adopting a zero tolerance approach to sexual assault and harassment in their workplaces.

for support from the legal profession, university, elected representatives and wider community to hear our voices, listen to our stories and stand up for safety in the workplace. Our students and alumni, quite frankly, deserve better.

“We deserve to be confident that we will be treated with dignity and respect at work, at university, at home - everywhere,” says Bethany Paterson, VUWSA Welfare Vice President and a fifth year law student.

“We want senior lawyers to mentor and teach us, rather than be reduced to objects to stare at and grope. There is no amount of re-wording, re-phrasing, or re-drafting that can justify sexual assault and harassment in the workplace.”

“We are trusting you with our careers and ambitions, please take care of them and us,” Bethany says.

Indiana Shewen, a fifth year law student and VUWLSS Vice President Administration and Equity says the March on Midland is about standing in solidarity with victims and survivors of sexual violence in all forms.

“We recognise that Māori, other ethnic minorities, gender and sexual minorities and people with disabilities are all impacted differently. Often young women are the victims, but this is not always the case – anyone can be a victim. Every story is important and we stand for all of them.”

“It is clear that sexual assault and harassment are pervasive problems within the legal profession, and not limited to one firm. We are calling for a re-haul of this inadequate culture – we do not accept sexual violence in any form.”

Supporters are asked to gather at the VUW Law School grounds on Bunny St at 11:45am on Thursday, 15 March. The March will begin from 12:30pm and speeches from students and politicians will be held at Midland Park from 1pm.

People attending the march are asked to wear black, in solidarity with the national Thursdays in Black campaign which aims to create a world without rape and violence through raising awareness, action and support.

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