Te ao hurihuri: A view from fourth year law student Te Uranga Royal
Our section ends with the next generation of Māori legal professionals coming through university, with a piece from fourth year Waikato student Te Uranga Royal.
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Currently I am studying a Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of Waikato. Next year will be my final year at law school and I do not hesitate to say that I have found my passion in life.
In a practical sense, I enjoy the orderly and logical processes that occur in dealing with this area of work. I also enjoy the advocacy side of law and how studying law can train you to prepare an argument and then back that argument. Most importantly, the law is an area where there is potential to advocate for change – particularly for Māori and Pasifika communities. Law school helped me discover how I can match my affinity for hard work with my aspirations to achieve a better future our society.
Like every other branch of society, studying law has been a whole new experience this year. To this end, I have learnt new meanings behind “productivity” and “work-life balance”. To reflect on a normal year of law school, I would often place working hard on an unrealistic pedestal – even above my own well-being. Oftentimes at law school, too much stock is placed on acquiring accolades and prestigious postions to serve the purpose of creating a perfect image of ourselves. However, the realities can be far from perfect at times and we feel disappointment when they are not. Often this unrealistic image we create for ourselves is toxic and can be a contributing factor to the mental health challenges students often face. This is where all those good values of compassion, honesty and kindness come in.
The Covid-19 lockdown allowed me to slow down and sit with these thoughts. As I mentioned above, my perspective changed on my measures of “productivity” and “work-life balance”. I arrived at the conclusion that working hard towards your studies and future career is important, however not to the extent that it compromises your health. Achievement ought not come at the expense of well-being. Having compassion for yourself when you know you are reaching your limits, being honest with yourself and with others about how you are feeling, and – most importantly – being kind to yourself when you need those moments of rest, is vitally important. Studying the law brings a lot of value to my life and so I view it as a privilege each time I put in effort towards a new milestone that will bring me closer to my graduation. However, with this new perspective from lockdown, I learnt the importance of decompression and how rest can also contribute towards healthy “productivity”.
Last year I had the privilege of listening to Tiana Epati (President of the New Zealand Law Society) deliver a keynote speech at the Annual Māori Law Society Conference. She spoke about how important it was for us – as Māori and Pasifika – to take on the responsibility of striving for greatness to honour the hard work of our ancestors. Continuing to stand on the shoulders who did so much more, with so much less. Tiana is the embodiment of strength and compassion. For a young wahine studying law, it gives me much encouragement to enter into the legal sector with someone of her progressive wisdom at the helm of our national law society. Her words continue to resonate with my personal vision for my future legal career. When I measure “greatness”, I measure it in the way an individual can inspire and deliver outcomes for the communities around them. As Audrey Hepburn once said: “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself and one for helping others.” To help others, you must help yourself by nurturing your own interior, not for selfish reasons but so that you can be the best you can be when helping others. And the best way to do that is to find your own creative centre, the thing that moves, inspires and motivates you.
Turning to my aspirations for the future of our law schools and the wider society, I hope there is an apetite to continue to feed our minds with an understanding of the world around us, and to feed our hearts with the aroha for the community who raised us.
Lawyers have the capacity to advocate for change and position themselves to be of service to people. Ultimately, positive change for our communities stems from striking a balance between an informed mind and a full heart. With compassionate leaders like Jacinda Ardern and Tiana to look up to, it gives me hope that the transition into a positive future is in safe and wise hands.
Nō Waikato, nō Ngāti Raukawa, nō Marutūāhu a Te Uranga, otirā nō Tainui. In her fourth year of studies, Te Uranga is currently completing her Bachelor of Laws (Hons) at the University of Waikato. She is a Russell McVeagh scholar and will be clerking with the firm in the coming summer. Her areas of interests include Te Tiriti o Waitangi, public law and jurisprudence. Growing up grounded in the values of the Kiingitanga, Te Uranga hopes she can pursue a legal career for the betterment of whānau, hapū and iwi in Aotearoa.