Administering justice through a cultural lens

Judge Frances Eivers — Tangata Whenua Judge 

Ngā taonga tuku iho nō ngā tūpuna

A core cultural value of Maori is to establish a connection or kinship — whanaungatanga.

Tāngata whenua are connected to the land through their tūpuna, or ancestors, landmarks, waterways, language, oral traditions and histories handed down from earlier generations — ngā taonga tuku iho.

It is a spiritual and cultural connection which links us to our tribal groups — whānau, hapū and iwi — which in turn links us to the land, of which we are mere custodians.

In my role as a tāngata whenua judge, I instinctively carry that cultural lens with me. It gives me a unique insight in to both worlds.

It is why the final resting place of Tainui waka on Kawhia harbour is important to me. Rewi Maniapoto is my tupuna; Ngāti Maniapoto my iwi, and so I am connected to Kawhia Moana and Tainui waka.

From the District Court at Manukau where I am based, we can see the Manukau Harbour where Tainui waka passed through in the 14th Century. To mana whenua, or local people, Manukau is a taonga. It is a food bowl for communities living on its shore, and we are its kaitiaki or guardians.

In my role, I share a responsibility and an obligation to find ways to address disproportionate representation of Māori in criminal, youth, care and protection, and mental health jurisdictions. It is ultimately important to all people of Aotearoa.

Cultural initiatives such as Te Kōti Rangatahi, learning te reo and opening and ending court sessions in te reo are first steps in the journey. There is still much to be done.

It is a challenge for us all. Tihei Mauri Ora!

"I instinctively carry that cultural lens with me. It gives me a unique insight in to both worlds"