Tēna koutou katoa
Greetings, hello all
Ka pū te ruha, ka hao te rangatahi
The old net is cast aside and the new net goes fishing
This whakataukī (proverb), evoked by Hon. Denise Clark, represents how new and fresh approaches can be used to build on the efforts and work of older generations. This concept was reiterated throughout the conference to encourage the establishment of a more equitable justice system. It encapsulates why I consider the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) biennial conference is significant: the ability to learn from experts in Aotearoa New Zealand and around the world is invaluable to the improvement of justice systems worldwide.
Despite being surrounded by New Zealand’s top legal minds (and the worlds, if you count virtual attendance), being welcomed onto Ōrākei Marae with a pōwhiri was, for me, the most humbling experience of the conference. Hon Sharon Hawke’s insight into Crown obligations to Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei made me feel uncomfortable about the justice system as it currently stands. In doing so, Sharon herself embodied the concept of mana wāhine, a concept she used to describe the inherent power of Māori women.
I am incredibly grateful to Sharon for sharing her whare, story and insights. Ultimately, I surmised that Aotearoa’s legal system should be reviewed within the historical context outlined. Tikanga, Māori law, has been developed over thousands of years. Yet the role of tikanga has been diminished by the Crown over the last 100 years. Through legislation like the Public Works Act 1882, the Crown deprived hapū of their whenua. As a source of wellbeing and identity, the loss of land has led to the disenfranchisement and subsequent overrepresentation of Māori in the criminal justice system. The challenge has now been set by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei for the judiciary and future leaders in law to cast this net aside.
Te ao mārama represents a new opportunity to go fishing. Administrative changes are sought by all New Zealanders in order to make the courts a place where all people can come to seek justice, regardless of their background. This transformative justice model requires the amplification of Māori voices. Actively listening, learning and creating a platform for Indigenous knowledge is the thread we can use to weave the holes caused by colonialism in the net of Aotearoa’s legal system.
I want to thank Hon. Justice Susan Glazebrook, President of the IAWJ, and the Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation for the opportunity to attend the 2021 Biennial Conference. As the first virtual hybrid conference I have attended, it is safe to say that the judiciary are taking full advantage of incorporating technological advances into their work. Not only were there incredible panels dealing with topics such as refugees and trafficking, COVID-19 and climate change, but the opportunity to hear the insights of judicial leaders from around the world. Amidst a global pandemic, this was not only a feat in itself but also encouraging. This event illustrated the dedication and contribution of women judges globally.