Female Kurdish fighters have a legendary status for their fight against ISIS, but now a Kurdish woman born in a refugee camp has been named University of Auckland Young New Zealander of the Year.
Forced from Iraq she lived in a Pakistan refugee camp, experiencing what she called unpredictable events, all of which prompted her to commence her career as a human rights lawyer.
She also had chance to share her experiences with other former refugees after being chosen to represent New Zealand Red Cross at the Global Refugee Youth Consultations in Geneva.
The full press release on the award, together with others, is below:
Recent Law and Arts graduate Rez Gardi was named University of Auckland Young New Zealander of the Year; and Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences academic Professor Ed Gane Sanitarium Innovator of the Year at the 2017 New Zealander of the Year Awards last night.
Rez Gardi is a lawyer and refugee of Kurdish descent who advocates for refugee rights. She graduated 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.
Professor Ed Gane was honoured for his innovative contributions to the development of a cure for Hepatitis C. He is an Adjunct Professor of Medicine at the University of Auckland and Deputy Director and Hepatologist of the New Zealand Liver Transplant Unit at Auckland City Hospital.
For a number of years, Dr Gane supervised meticulous drug trials on Kiwi volunteers with chronic Hepatitis C. He trialled various combinations of different antivirals until he finally got the results he was looking for.
Thanks to Professor Gane and his international colleagues’ innovative work and perseverance, almost everyone with Hepatitis C can now be cured with a short course of tablets. The World Health Organisation recently announced that more than one million people have already been cured with these new drugs and that global eradication of Hepatitis C should now be achievable within the next 30 years.
This outstanding advance in treatment of Hepatitis C will have a future global impact at a similar scale that the Polio vaccine developed by Jonas Salk has had since 1955.
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. Likewise Professor Gane’s achievements are of global significance and demonstrate the valuable contribution innovation and research can have on improving people’s lives,” Professor McCutcheon says.
Sanitarium New Zealand Innovator of the Year
Winner – Dr. Ed Gane (Auckland Central)
University of Auckland Young New Zealander of the Year