Normalising Māori langauge within the legal profession

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

The first ever Māori language workshop for those in the legal profession was held at Hoani Waititi Marae in Auckland. The Māori Law Society say the aim is to develop the understanding of Māori language in legal settings.

Speaking on behalf of The Māori Law Society, Alana Thomas says the aims is “for te reo Māori to be normalised in the courts, to flow within all areas of the legal world, to come naturally from the lips of judges, lawyers, everyone within the legal profession.”

A number of Māori language educators were called on.  With a wealth of experience in teaching Māori to adults, Jeremy Tātere McCleod says the idea for this workshop was to teach the relevant Māori words and sentences related to legal services and proceedings, to enable those within the profession to speak it daily.

"My focus is to find language that relates to their work and that's the great thing about sayings is that they can cover a wide range of topics in different contexts."

Attending the workshop, Eru Kapa-Kingi says he is "learning about the language within the court, how to express thoughts in our language in that setting, because the language is different there."

More than 80 people, both Māori and Pākehā, have gathered here to take part from lawyers to judges to university students. 

Alana Thomas from The Māori Law Society says that all participants are eager to increase the amount of Māori being used within legal settings.

“In the last 2-3 years we've witnessed a growth in the desire of those who are here to develop their Māori language abilities in the legal world,” says Thomas.

Kapa-Kingi is studying law and Māori and The University of Victoria. He says this is step in the right direction.

“We’re here to work hard and commit to using the right words in that context,” says Kapa-Kingi.

The Māori Law Society are looking to make it an annual initiative.