Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa – The Māori Law Society welcomes the Independent Panel’s report examining the 2014 family justice reforms and supports the recommendation of a joined-up family justice service – Te Korowai Ture ā-Whānau.
“This principal recommendation of Te Korowai Ture ā-Whānau brings together the fragmented elements of the current family justice service,” Traecy Norton, Te Hunga Rōia Māori member. “This recommendation is important to Māori who have been significantly affected by the 2014 reforms and who would benefit from the cohesive, collaborative, and cost-effective approach that Te Korowai proposes.”
Te Hunga Rōia Māori supports the panel’s recommendations, particularly those that allow Māori better access to justice in the Family Court. Of note, and among the 70 recommendations made by the panel, the specific reference to Te Tiriti o Waitangi within family court legislation, and increasing exposure, and understanding of Family Court judges to tikanga Māori programmes, and processes.
“Understanding tikanga Māori is crucial to understanding Te Ao Māori, Māori whānau and children who are overrepresented in the family justice system” says Mānia Hope, family law sector representative for Te Hunga Rōia Māori. “Te Hunga Rōia Māori supports all of the ‘Te Ao Māori’ recommendations, including appointing more Māori judges to the Family Court bench and requiring all Family Court judges to attend tikanga Māori programmes. The panel’s recommendation to diversify the experience and cultural understandings of the Family Court judiciary will benefit all Family Court users.”
The report also encourages increased opportunities for children to be involved in the decision-making process.
“Our tamariki are the most vulnerable within the Family Court process, we need to ensure that their voices are not only heard but also respected,” says Ms Norton. “A tamaiti in te Ao Māori is never seen in isolation; they are an integral part of their whānau, hapū and iwi. Giving tamariki a say in decisions that affect them and their whānau recognises their mana and dignity.”
Te Hunga Rōia Māori supports the recommendation that, where possible, Māori children are represented by a Lawyer for Child who is Māori. “It is appropriate that children are represented by a lawyer who understands a child’s culture, religion, family context and wider community,” says Ms Norton. “It is also an appropriate recommendation that the lawyer for child appointment panel include kaumātua from within the area, thus recognising the mana and integrity that our koroua and kuia have.”
The report encourages wider justice system reform modelled on Te Korowai Ture ā-Whānau. Te Hunga Rōia Māori is supportive of a co-ordinated reform of the justice system that not only recognises the importance to Te Tiriti but also prioritises Māori voices and values.
Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa was formally established in 1988. Since then, the society has grown to a membership of over 380 legal practitioners, judges, parliamentarians, legal academics, policy analysts, researchers and Māori law students. The vision for Te Hunga Rōia Māori is Ma te Ture, Mo te iwi – By the law, for the people.
Glenn Tootill – Tumuaki Tāne: 027 436 7371
Mānia Hope – Family Law Sector Representative
Traecy Norton – Te Hunga Rōia Māori member