In a moving and celebratory ceremony in the New Plymouth High Court, Te Wehi Wright was admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the HIgh Court of New Zealand on 10 October in Taranaki's first admission ceremony to be conducted in te reo Māori.
Mr Wright, 25, graduated from Victoria University of Wellington last year with an LLB and BA in Māori Studies and Māori Resource Management. He is working for Tuaropaki Trust in Taupo.
"This was another manifestation of a dream shared by my parents to raise a Te Reo Māori speaking whanau," he says.
"It was a great celebration for our whanau, and the profession."
Mr Wright was admitted by Justice Christine Grice before a Court gallery which was full with members of his whanau and supporters. His whanau supported him with an address to the Court from his father and a waiata and a haka. Following his admission he signed what is the oldest known register of lawyers in New Zealand, dating back to 1861.
"Justice Grice addressed Te Wehi and his family," the President of the Taranaki branch of the New Zealand Law Society, Caroline Silk says.
"She ably spoke about the history of the Taranaki Bar and the significance of signing the oldest existing register in the Country. She also spoke about the significance of the design of the new ceremonial robes."
"It was a humbling experience and we feel privileged to have been able to be part of it and to have been able to address the Court. It is truly great that the Court and her Honour Justice Grice were able to accommodate Te Wehi’s wish to be admitted in his native and first language."
A significant occasion
"The significance of this occasion for my whanau and our people is seen when we recognise the 150 years since the pursuit of Titokowaru, and the time of Te Whiti and Tohu when our ancestors were taken down south.," Mr Wright says.
"What happened to our people was not lost on us, and to add my name to the oldest known register in the country, and reflecting that some of the names on their may have been responsible for the imprisonment of my ancestors, signals a positive change for my people in reshaping our peoples perception of the law, and our recovery process from that trauma.
"For me personally, being admitted here, under my mountain is testament to the hard work and dedication that my parents and whanau put in to ensure our generation were grounded in our culture, sound in our beliefs, proficient in our language and measured in how we carry ourselves."
Persistence and patience
Mr Wright says securing the Te Reo ceremony was a matter of "persistence and patience".
"I made the request to move the ceremony from Wellington to New Plymouth to be closer to my grandfather, but that the ceremony also be in full Te Reo Māori. In recognition of our worldview.
"Right up until the practice run, changes were made, limits were pushed and the Court room was still accommodating of the request to have speakers, karakia, waiata, haka and photos.
"Some may have got a little impatient and decided on another ceremony, just to be admitted, but I learnt how accommodating the process can be if you’re patient but persistent but most of all, committed to your path. It may have dragged out longer than usual, but the ultimate outcome was reached and I would not have changed it for anything.
"The tears dripping down the faces of my whanau and all others involved, Māori and pakeha showed a positive step for the profession and for Taranaki, in moving towards an open and diverse future."