New Zealand Law Society - Moana Jackson – His legacy

Moana Jackson – His legacy

Moana Jackson – His legacy

LawTalk pays tribute to Matua Moana Jackson, who was an important figure for so many – for his whānau; for his iwi of Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Porou, and Rongomaiwahine; for Māori working in a range of fields; and for indigenous peoples throughout the world through his work on the drafting of the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

“Kaore tātou e noho tahi ai i roto i ō tātou whawhai, kei te tū tātou i te ao tūroa i te māramatanga o ō tātou tipuna”.

Ka puta te waihanga o te ture i Aotearoa i runga i te kaha o Moana Jackson.

He kaiwhakarauora i ngā tikanga tuku iho, he pou tangata i tō tātou reo Māori, ā, nānā i whakapau kaha i ngā whakaaro whai waahi ki roto i te Ao ture me te whakakotahi i ngā tāngata katoa huri noa i te ao.

Nānā i whawhai, i whakapau kaha anō hoki ki te tautoko i te mana me te rangatiratanga o te iwi Māori, kia whakarite i a rātou ake ture e hangai ana ki a rātou whakapapa, ā, kei te ora tonu ngā ture Māori, i roto i te mātauranga Māori.

Ka whawhai tonu mātou mō ake tonu atu.

Koia tētahi o ngā rangatira ka tū hei māngai, hei waha mā tātou te iwi Māori. Koia hoki tētahi i whakarauora ai, i whakahoki ai tō tātou nei tikanga Māori ki roto o Aotearoa, ki roto hoki i te Ao Ture.

It is impossible for Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa to prepare an edition of LawTalk without an acknowledgement of Moana Jackson and his passing a little over a year ago.

Moana was an important figure for so many – for his whānau; for his iwi of Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Porou, and Rongomaiwahine; for Māori working in a range of fields; and for indigenous peoples throughout the world through his work on the drafting of the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Included below are comments from some who knew him particularly well, and who carry on his work today. It is impossible to include thoughts from all those that he was special to, but the thoughts that are provided will echo those of many others.

This is because, for Māori lawyers in particular, Matua Moana was one of the pou, or pillars, for us as individuals and as part of Te Hunga Rōia Māori.

For so many of us we first came across Moana as part of our studies. At a time when we might often be struggling in our courses and thinking law may not be for us, we would come across Moana Jackson and his thinking. This might have been a report or article by Moana that had snuck its way into our course material, or it might have been seeing Moana talking in person at any one of the law schools that he would go out of his way to give time to support. That would often be one of the first times we would really see ourselves, our experiences, our values, being expressed in the context of the legal courses that we were studying. His thinking would be a guiding star that helped us navigate through, and avoid being swamped in, a sea of dreary decisions written by English Law Lords.

As many others have said before, a ‘Moana Jackson moment’ was often what contributed to convincing them to stick with studying law. The growing number of Māori in the legal profession has its roots in seeds planted by Moana.

He also continued to nurture those seeds. At a recent reunion for Te Roopu Whai Pūtake (the Otago University Māori Law Students Association) Kristen Maynard, one of TRWP’s founders, shared her memories of Moana and his support for TRWP. She also talked of the experience of transitioning from being a student to having to start a professional career, and bumping into Moana at that time. When that happened Moana remembered her, knew her name, took the time to talk with her about how she was and what she was going to be doing next. And when he discovered that Kristen was about to start a new job but didn’t have a pōwhiri arranged, made sure he was available the next day to step into the that role and support her in the next stage of her journey.

That is not an unusual story – many of the tributes and acknowledgements that were made at the time of Moana’s passing tell a similar tale. Of Moana taking the time to connect with everyone he met, of nurturing those connections, and going out of his way to support and mentor others (and sometimes give a gentle push when required).

Those seeds that were planted in the profession have grown and spread because of the care and love that Moana gave in nurturing them. Today many of those people are our senior members of Te Hunga Rōia Māori, of the profession, of academia, and are Government ministers or senior officials.

The direction of the growth of Māori in the legal profession, and the growth of Te Hunga Rōia Māori, has also been guided, in no small part, by the thinking, values, and vision of Moana.

Within Te Hunga Rōia Māori, he often posed the question of whether there was a difference in seeing ourselves as lawyers who happen to be Māori, or as Māori who happen to be lawyers. And if there was a difference, then which are we as members of Te Hunga Rōia Māori?

Moana did not just write about parallel systems of justice. He created parallel institutions. He lived and worked tirelessly to find ways and means for Māori to achieve a decolonised future for themselves

That question remains a touchstone for us. It has given us the confidence to participate in the legal profession in a way that doesn’t mean we have to compromise our culture and values, in a way where we express our reo me ōna tikanga, and in a way where we support each other.

The work that we each do as lawyers also remains strongly influenced by Moana. His ground-breaking work such as He Whaipaanga Hou: Māori in the Criminal Justice System, and Matike Mai, as well as his involvement in milestones such as the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, are the foundations we work from today. It is not hard to draw a direct line from Moana’s thinking and work through to the developments we see today – from the upcoming inclusion of the teaching of tikanga as part of a law degree, to some of the thinking behind the Te Ao Marama approach in the District Courts, through to the recognition of tikanga Māori as a third source of law in Aotearoa by the Supreme Court.

The whakataukī – kua hinga te tōtara i te wao nui a Tāne – was one that was often heard following Moana’s passing. It is an appropriate one. We have lost a great tōtara from our forest. But, like the tōtara, Moana sowed the seeds for the next generation, nurtured us to grow, and has shown us the direction to grow to reach the light. We now have the responsibility to carry on that growth and fill the gap left in the canopy by Moana’s passing. That is his legacy.


Annette Sykes (Ngāti Makino, Ngāti Pikiao)

Director – Annette Sykes & Co

He toa koe mō te Mana Motuhake (Whakaputanga, Te Tiriti o Waitangi)

He toa koe mō te mana wahine e (Te Hunga Tū, Te Hunga Pae)

Ko te ahorangi e, o te hunga rangatahi

Te Kaiarahi e, o ngā iwi taketake

Kua riro atu koe ki te toi o ngā rangi

E tū mokemoke nei

o mokopuna ki te ao

These words of tribute were sung at Te Matatini to honour our dear friend; philosopher and teacher. Unsurprisingly the sentiments are part of a waiata that reached beyond his own peoples of Ngāti Kahungungu and Ngāti Porou to engage the hearts and minds of Te Ao Māori with a special recognition of his role in the education of the present generation of critical thinkers and those that have worked for a greater Aotearoa built on the values and principles of tikanga Māori. Even in the afterlife his influence was enormous and it was not a surprise the performance, by Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, would see them recognised as the supreme group of Matatini 2023, just as Moana will be recognised as one of our supreme leaders of the past century.

As his name Te Moana nui a Kiwa reminds, he is a child of the great Pacific peoples and his insight was sought by the peoples of this region in a range of contexts. He served as a judge on the International Tribunal of Indigenous Rights in Hawaii in 1993 and again in Canada in 1995. He was also counsel for the Bougainville Interim Government during the Bougainville peace process. He was a witness in a number of court processes that sought to transform the present constitutional and political systems that had marginalised Māori as tangata whenua and first nations peoples. Many of the cases like Barton v Prescott; Mason No 2; the Stage One Report of the Waitangi Tribunal in Te Paparahi o Te Raki and challenges to the Department of Corrections processes are now being used as part of the renaissance of tikanga Māori as the first law of his land have had Moana at the centre of the struggle to legitimate our laws and philosphies. It is in this context that our friendship and working relationships were cemented in the late 1980s and 1990s where we were often ostracised by the Crown for challenging the institutional racism that denied Māori authority over our taonga and ways of life. Our working life would see us travel to undertake decolonisation wananga in all of the law schools in the land and as organisers of key opposition to the legislative efforts to deny Māori rights and interests in the Foreshore and Seabed and in the straight jacketing of permissible claims to be pursued in the Treaty Settlement framework. We once laughed together that during this period we must have done at least 4000 hui in the motu and were looked after by every marae in the land. His papers on the Fiscal Envelope (1994) and Foreshore and Seabed (2004/5) legislative changes helped people understand how governments restricted the rights of Māori and were key in the mobilising of the Māori nation to take their concerns out into the streets with hikoi to Parliament and other significant hui being called by incredible leaders such as the late Sir Hepi Te Heuheu and Archie Taiaroa to draw focus to these injustices.

Moana did not just write about parallel systems of justice. He created parallel institutions. He lived and worked tirelessly to find ways and means for Māori to achieve a decolonised future for themselves. The reform of laws was a task allocated by the government to the New Zealand Law Commission established in 1986, and at that time the Legal Services Board administered legal aid schemes to try to improve access to justice. Moana worked for much more than that. He was the passionate driving force (with Caren Wickliffe [now Fox]) in a parallel organisation, Ngā Kaiwhakamarama i Nga Ture: the Māori Legal Service, established in 1987 to work towards Māori self-determination; ensure the protection of Māori rights; ensure that the Treaty of Waitangi is honoured; and to network internationally with other Indigenous groups. The international networking aspect of that remit led to Moana’s commitment (with Ngāneko Minhinnick and others) to the decades-long work to draft what is now the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He would return after his efforts there to establish a Māori Law Commission of which the late Dame Mira Szaszy; Dame Ngāneko Minhinnick; Bishop Manuhuia Bennett; Tuaiwia Rickard and Sir James Henare were inaugural members and would constantly be writing analysis to keep the motivations for change and decolonisation alive.

In the latter years his commitment to his whānau and mokopuna saw him return to live with their Tūhoe kin where he was an active participant in the revival, first of strategies to reclaim Te Mana Motuhake o Tūhoe and then to help those arrested in the Te Urewera Raids. He was instrumental in complaints to the Special Rapporteur on Terrorism resulting in United Nations officials asking the New Zealand Government to explain the police’s October anti-terror raids. He helped with Independent Police Conduct Inquiries to the police operations that occurred there and was a constant presence in the long drawn-out court processes which dominated 10 years of our lives. Since 2018 Moana, and his team, Anne Waapu and Ngawai McGregor were funded by the Borrin Foundation to continue his investigation into the criminal justice system. He worked with a team of Rangatahi on Te Matike Mai Report as well as a number of other initiatives for his own whānau, hapū and iwi.

Even in the latter days of his life he was constantly challenging and asked me to sit on his paepae at his marae to honour the role that women had played in his work and to remind me of the shackles of the patriarchal systems that have trampled on Te Mana o Te Wahine that need to be broken. Contrary to the misconceived notion that women are powerless and passive victims in the processes of colonisation, he wanted the fact to be acknowledged that women are taking on the role of agents and leaders in struggle against injustices and violence in Te Ao Māori and wanted that visibilised at his tangihanga. It was a privilege for me to fulfil that wish. One never could say no to Moana because he very rarely if ever asked anything of anyone because he was always responding to the requests of everyone. I hope that we who participate in the revival of tikanga Māori as the first law of this country will eventually create the Moana Jackson Institute of Laws and Philosophy to ensure that which he worked untiring to achieve in his lifetime continues.


Ani Mikaere (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Porou)

Kaihautū – Te Whare Whakatu Mātauranga at Te Wānanga o Raukawa

There is nothing more potent than a good idea; and Moana was full of them. He may be gone from our midst, but his legacy will endure for generations. Such is the gift of someone who was always ten steps ahead of the rest of us; someone who never failed to take the long view; someone who knew that it wasn’t about him and that it didn’t matter that he would most likely not be here when the changes he talked about came to fruition. It was enough for him that his mokopuna would be here to see it. Creating a better world for his mokopuna was always his chief motivation.

Perhaps the most inspirational thing about Moana was his belief that each of us has the potential to be our best selves; and that if we commit to being our best selves, we can achieve anything. He was legendarily patient. That’s one of many reasons why he was so good at what he did. It’s also why he was so universally loved.

One of his best-known statements is that bravery is just the deep breath you take before doing something difficult. Bravery was one of the qualities that Moana admired most. He embodied it and he encouraged it in all of us, believing that with it we could change the world. I only hope we justify his faith in us.


Aphiphany Forward-Taua (Waikato, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Hinerangi, Ngāti Raukawa)

Executive Director – JustSpeak

Haere e whai i ngā waewae o Rehua. – Follow in the footsteps of Rehua

This whakataukī denotes if one follows a great chief, such as Rehua, one can be certain of sustenance.

Matua Moana was a legal and jurisprudential mastermind, he was a tohunga of the law, with the ability to carve out complex legal issues and produce convincing and clear solutions to issues of great complexity. He was a humble, kind and honourable descendant of Kahungunu; a Tane Māori who committed his life to honouring his tīpuna, his people, and his whānau. His commitment to a vision of transformational justice for Aotearoa, and especially Māori through upholding Te Tiriti o Waitangi was unwavering. It is this vision of transformational justice that underpins the advocacy work of many in Aotearoa today. The contributions he made to Aotearoa were, and still are revolutionary.

The teachings Matua Moana bestowed on us through stories were profoundly thought provoking. I personally, will never forget the story he told of his tīpuna Hineaka. Hineaka was a wāhine and rangatira of their hapū. Because of her sex, she was denied the opportunity to sign Te Tiriti o Waitangi on behalf of her people. In response to this takahi mana (breaking of mana), her ope (whānau group) simply left. As a budding wāhine Māori rōia, this story demonstrates a number of things, it tells of what mana wāhine is, the power of tikanga Māori, and how it informs swift yet meaningful decision making. Most of all though, it showed the power of aroha, demonstrated through the immediate support Hineaka received from her people as a rangatira, as a wāhine, and as whanaunga.

The Matike Mai report Matua Moana led envelopes solutions to the constitutional debate around Te Tiriti justice. Addressing this debate, will certainly go some ways to healing the overrepresentation of Māori in the criminal justice system, as he highlighted some 35 years ago in his report, He Whaipaanga Hou – A New Perspective. This report visioned a transformative response to overcoming the perils of a failing colonial system by outlining the differences in Māori conflict resolution, the embodiment of mana by Māori leaders e.g. kaumatua and kuia, and the power of tikanga based decision making.

As great leaders do, Matua Moana humbly left us gifts through his work. These gifts are answers to many of the problems we as a nation continue to grapple with, but especially Te Tiriti. The question remains though, will we be brave enough to endear ourselves to a transformative vision? Or will we continue to do the same thing by tinkering at the edges and expecting a different result? As the legal profession, we have the ability to change the future of Aotearoa for the better, how we choose to do this rests with us.