The Māori Language Commissioner, Professor Rawinia Higgins, wrote eloquently in The Spinoff recently about the importance of championing te reo Māori, for the benefit of all New Zealanders.
“We need to invite and encourage all New Zealanders to see te reo as part of our identity as Kiwis and as something that brings us all together,’’ she said.
The Māori Language Commission works to build a future where te reo Māori is part of our national and personal identity as New Zealanders. Essentially, it’s about reflecting the bicultural foundations of Aotearoa New Zealand in our everyday lives.
As the regulator of, and national membership body for, the legal profession, it’s important that we acknowledge the bicultural foundations of this country. One way to do this is to embrace te reo Māori in our communications. The Law Society is at the beginning of a journey to establish a genuine commitment to Te Ao Māori and create long-term cultural change within our organisation.
Our first step involves language and involves the launch of our new Māori name: Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa which will start being used around the time this issue of LawTalk is published. Staff are being supported to ensure they feel confident to use the new name and also know what it means.
Our name was developed in consultation with a range of experts and was given to us by Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, the Māori Language Commission. “Ture” means the law and “Te Kāhui” in this context means company or organisation . The Law Society’s three Sections have also been given Māori names. The Family Law Section, Ngā Rōia Ture Whānau; The Property Law Section, Ngā Rōia Ture Rawa; and ILANZ, Ngā Rōia ā Roto.
We still have lots of work to do as an organisation to assume the responsibility that comes with our new Māori names but this as a step in the right direction.
The recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Law Society and with Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa, The Māori Law Society, is another significant milestone. We have been working with our valued colleagues at Te Hunga Rōia Māori for many years. I would like to acknowledge the important mahi they do to represent and support iwi Māori in the legal profession – and have been doing so for more than 30 years.
Their membership includes a substantial number of legal practitioners, judges, parliamentarians, legal academics, policy analysts, researchers and Māori law students – and their work includes raising awareness of the fact that Māori and Māori legal issues can require a distinct and different approach.
Greater understanding and appreciation of tikanga Māori and Te Ao Māori is beneficial for all lawyers in all areas of the profession. Building te reo Maori into our practices can only add to our ability to work with our clients, particularly those of us in youth justice, criminal and family law. Te reo Māori is more than just language, it is imbued with customs and traditions and a Māori world view.
This MoU strengthens the existing relationship between Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa and the Law Society and formalises the spirit of cooperation and trust between our two organisations.
The MoU does not limit or affect the independence of either organisation. It acknowledges that we each have our roles to play but together we can learn from and support each other.
An important aspect of the Law Society’s role is to increase diversity, belonging and inclusiveness in the legal profession; and we welcome this closer relationship with our colleagues at Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa as we build our capability in this area.
It’s a positive step for us as the national organisation, as the kaitiaki of the profession, the public and the rule of law.
Ko te pae tawhiti
Whāia kia tata
Ko te pae tata
Whakamaua kia tina!
Keep on pursuing your long-term goals but don’t ignore those things you can do to make a difference, day to day!
President, New Zealand Law Society, Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa