Chapman Tripp solicitor Rez Gardi was named 2017 Young New Zealander of the Year for services to human rights on Wednesday night.
A lawyer in the Auckland litigation team, Kurdish-born Rez arrived in New Zealand as a six-year-old refugee. Chapman Tripp wrote about her incredible journey recently.
In addition to her work as a litigator, Rez continues to be a champion of human rights, holding notable positions such as the New Zealand youth representative at the Women Deliver Conference in Copenhagen, Global Refugee Youth Consultations in Geneva and the annual UNHCR-NGO Consultations in Geneva.
“On behalf of the firm, I would like to congratulate Rez,” says Chapman Tripp chief executive partner Nick Wells.
“This is a huge achievement and apt recognition of her incredible work with the United Nations and much more.”
Also vying for the award, sponsored by the University of Auckland, were rally driver Hayden Paddon, businessman Jamie Beaton, and doctor and CEO Angela Lim.
Rez says she was blown away when her name was announced at Wednesday night’s ceremony in Auckland.
“I was just in shock. As someone who argues, debates and advocates for a living, it is not often that I am speechless – so you can imagine how overwhelmed I was. I certainly hadn’t expected to win. It is a huge honour to be recognised among some incredible Kiwis.”
She thanked her parents, nominator Anna Goble, and the University of Auckland in her acceptance speech.
“And last but not least, I want to thank all New Zealanders – we are a tolerant, diverse and leading nation. There is nowhere else in the world I’d rather call home,” she said on the night.
“I didn’t choose to be a refugee; I was born as a refugee. Yet the label has come to define me – after nearly 20 years in New Zealand. The label refugee has come to have so many negative connotations. My work with refugee communities here in New Zealand, with the United Nations, and the Red Cross has been to remove the stigma and redefine it as the word which embraces resilience and strength.”
The award acknowledges “leaders of tomorrow who are already showing great promise”, a release from Kiwibank said.