The former Presidents of Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa have co-edited this edition of Kōrero Mō te Aotearoa. The section Te Ao Hurihuri (The Changing World) examines the role of te reo Māori within the legal profession and the place of tikanga Māori which is often referred to as the ‘First Law’ of Aotearoa.
E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā hoa mahi rōia kei ngā tōpito e whā o te motu, nei rā te mihi kau ake ki a koutou katoa. He mea pai rawa atu ki a māua ki te tuku atu i tēnei pukapuka i tēnei marama.
In this special issue of Ture Kōrero the theme is based on Te Ao Hurihuri (the changing world) and examines te reo Māori and tikanga Māori within the law. We are your guest editors for this month, Marcia Murray and Glenn Tootill, former Tumuaki (Co-Presidents) of Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa, the Māori Law Society. Tēnā koutou katoa.
Te Reo Rangatira
This week we celebrate New Zealand’s first language, te reo Māori. For us, it’s always a week of fun games, lots of kōrero, waiata and delicious Māori kai. Our Hunga Rōia waiata “Tēnei Mātou” was composed by the late Matiu Dickson, lecturer at Te Piringa, Faculty of Law at the University of Waikato and his words are a constant reminder for us to always treasure our beautiful language.
Māori language week is celebrated each year and dates back to 1975 and, prior to that, New Zealand celebrated Māori Language Day. To think, out of the 365 days we have in a year, only one was dedicated to the first language of this land. We’re glad to see that times have changed. There is now a Mahuru Māori reo challenge which Māori language advocate Paraone Gloyne started in 2014 as a way of normalising te reo in everyday dealings. This challenge encourages participants to communicate in te reo Māori only, for the entire month of September. We’ve both signed up so if you see us around in September, tēnā kōrero mai ki a māua i roto i te reo Māori.
For some members in the legal profession, the pursuit of excellence in Māori language has seen them take an entire year out of their legal careers to upskill in the language. This will be discussed by six wahine toa who share their reo journeys with us in this issue.
Māori members of the judiciary are also keen to hear te reo Māori being spoken in their courts. In 2019 the Honourable Justice Sir Joe Williams, who became the first Māori judge appointed to the Supreme Court bench, held lessons for practitioners in Te Whanganui-ā-Tara (Wellington) on pronunciation of local place names, common case names and appearances. This initiative was later picked up by judges Damian Stone and Miharo Armstrong of the Māori Land Court bench who provided te reo lessons to practitioners in Ōtautahi (Christchurch) and Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland).
We know that te reo Māori and tikanga Māori are intrinsically connected. Tā Hirini Moko Mead, an expert in Māori language and culture, tells us that:
“One’s understanding of tikanga Māori is informed and mediated by the language of communication. One’s understanding through te reo Māori is different from one obtained through the English language. Te reo Māori participants usually have the advantage of prior knowledge and prior experience.”
So, this month, regardless of how much te reo Māori you know, we challenge you to make the effort to speak more te reo Māori in your everyday interactions.
Tikanga Māori is often referred to as the ‘First Law’ of Aotearoa/New Zealand by Māori academics. As the courts continue to explore areas of this ‘First Law’, the need to know and understand te reo Māori and tikanga Māori is a necessity within the legal profession. Tikanga Māori is not just a standalone subject. It can also be found across all jurisdictions, including the justice system, New Zealand common law, legal education and in the development of legislation which are topics explored further in this edition.
Te Hunga Rōia Māori recently took up the wero (challenge) to assist as intervenor in a Supreme Court appeal which explored tikanga Māori and the common law. Some of the key points raised by some of the lawyers involved in the case are included in this issue.
Te Ao Hurihuri
As our world continues to change, there are more people than ever in our profession who are attaining a higher level of fluency in te reo Māori and a broader understanding of tikanga Māori. For Te Hunga Rōia Māori our world is changing too as we step down from the position of Tumuaki and hand over the reigns to our new leaders. We look forward to supporting our incoming Tumuaki Wahine, Jaime-Lee Tuuta (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri me Ngāti Toa Rangatira) and Tumuaki Tāne, Dr Carwyn Jones (Ngāti Kahungungu). We have no doubt they will continue to engage with significant issues facing Māori in the law on behalf of Te Hunga Rōia Māori.