Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa / New Zealand Māori Law Society (“THRMOA”) was formally established in 1988 and held its first hui at Tunohopu Marae in Rotorua. Since then our organisation has grown enormously and our THRMOA membership includes legal practitioners, judges, parliamentarians, legal academics, policy analysts, researchers and Māori law students.

THRMOA was originally established to provide an annual opportunity for Māori lawyers to discuss and debate issues relevant to Māori, and this has remained the central focus for our organisation and our annual hui.

The Kaupapa / Vision for THRMOA is expressed as being Mā te Ture, Mō te Iwi – By the Law, For the People. Inevitably Māori law graduates, regardless of where and how we utilise our legal skills, have a mutual desire to effect change through the law within and for our Iwi, and, we are ultimately responsible to our Iwi. Iwi for THRMOA relates to both our tribal identity and to our Māori legal community.

It was agreed from the outset that our Executive Committee would move from region to region and that we would strive to have membership from across the country. The Executive maintains a database of Māori legal practitioners and Māori law graduates, ensures the effective networking of members, makes submissions on a range of policies and proposed legislation, ensures representation of its membership on various committees and organises an annual national hui.

History of Ngāi Māori in the Law

  • 1897: On 26 March, Apirana Turupa Ngata (later Sir Apirana) is the first Māori to be admitted as a barrister and solicitor
  • 1923: In July, Harold Herbert Carr is appointed to the bench of the Native (later Māori) Land Court, the first Māori to be appointed a judicial officer
  • 1970: In June, Ken Mason is sworn in, becoming the first Māori to be appointed a Stipendiary Magistrate (and later District Court Judge until his retirement in 1988)
  • 1972: Georgina te Heuheu (later Dame Georgina) is the first Māori woman to be admitted as a barrister and solicitor
  • 1974: Edward Durie (later Sir Edward) is the first Māori to be appointed a Judge of the Māori Land Court
  • 1980: Edward Durie is the first Māori to be appointed Chief Judge of the Māori Land Court
  • 1988: Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa formally established, with just a handful of members
  • 1988: Lowell Goddard (later Dame Lowell) is appointed Queen’s Counsel on 4 March, the first Māori woman and (with Sian Elias) the first New Zealand woman appointed QC
  • 1995: Lowell Goddard is sworn in as a High Court Judge in December, becoming the first Māori woman appointed to the High Court bench
  • 1998: Edward Durie is sworn in as a High Court Judge in October, becoming the first Māori man appointed to the High Court bench
  • 2000: Caren Wickliffe is the first Māori woman appointed a Judge of the Māori Land Court
  • 2001: Denise Clark is sworn in as a District Court Judge on Tematekapua Marae in Rotorua on 2 October. She is the first Māori woman appointed as a District Court Judge and it is also the first time a judge has been admitted to the bench in a ceremony held on a marae
  • 2017:  Justice Joe Williams is elevated to the Court of Appeal, as its first Te Reo speaking judicial officer and likely first Māori appointed to the Court of Appeal bench

Past Tumuaki of THRMOA

  • 1988 – 1991 John Chadwick, inaugural President and Life Member
  • 1991 – 1993 Whaimutu Dewes
  • 1993 – 1997 Gina Rudland

THRMOA changes its rules to require Female and Male Co-Presidents

  • 1997 – 1999 Craig Coxhead & Ani Mikaere
  • 1999 – 2001 Tavake Afeaki & La-Verne King
  • 2001 – 2002 Tavake Afeaki & Metiria Turei
  • 2002 – 2003 Matanuku Mahuika & Mereana Hond
  • 2004 – 2005 Matanuku Mahuika & Dayle Takitimu
  • 2005 – 2006 Stephen Clark & Dayle Takitimu (resigned March 2006)
  • 2006 – 2008 Ngaroma Tahana and Te Kani Williams
  • 2008 – 2010 Jolene Patuawa & Damian Stone
  • 2011 & 2012 Liana Poutu & Tama Potaka
  • 2013 & 2014 Ani Bennett & Spencer Webster
  • 2015 & 2016 Rachel Mullins & Aidan Warren
  • 2017 & 2018 Tavake Afeaki & Ophir Cassidy