Ngāti Hine junior lawyer Keegan Jones’ dream to help his community is being realised today as the first iwi-based, free legal clinic opens in Whangārei.
Jones earned a double degree in commerce and law at the University of Canterbury, and joined and eventually became president of Te Pūtāiki/Māori Lawyers Association.
Fresh out of university he had the idea of opening a free legal clinic for his community, Jones says.
Having been brought up at the top of the North Island, Jones says he thinks the decision to choose the middle of the South Island for his law studies came by way of his tūpuna talking to him.
“Being a Northland boy I did feel a bit of my depth in Christchurch but at the same time it challenged me. It also made me acknowledge how important it was to go back to my whenua,” he says.
Keegan Jones keen to help whānau in the law space.
To have a free legal clinic was to fill a “gap in the market,” Jones says, to have an iwi partner with a community law provider for whānau that need accessible services.
“It’s a great initiative to put forward for the community.
“Even going through university, it took me five years to understand how the legal system works."
He says that means he will try to make that as simple as possible for whānau coming in, "and to make that easier to get that legal burden off them and feel they can walk in, walk out with their shoulders lighter than they were when they were in – that’s the goal".
“We won’t be making legal advice but we’ll be making the referrals that may be needed depending on the issue or problem.”
Ngāti Hine Health Trust launched the new service yesterday.