E tū ki te kei o te waka, kia pakia koe e ngā ngaru o te wā

Stand at the stern of the canoe and feel the spray of the future biting at your face

Yesterday history was made with the appointment of Justice Joseph Victor Williams of Ngāti Pukenga, Waitaha and Tapuika as the first Māori Judge of the Supreme Court of New Zealand.

“As a founding member of Te Hunga Rōia Māori, Justice Williams has been paving the way for Māori to succeed in the legal profession and the judiciary,” says Marcia Murray, Tumuaki Wahine (co-president) of Te Hunga Rōia Māori. “His appointment to the Supreme Court bench is a significant milestone for te Ao Māori and a testament to his trailblazing legacy.”

Glenn Tootill, Tumuaki Tane (co-president) of Te Hunga Rōia Māori says: “Justice Williams is an inspiration to our members, and always challenges those of us coming through the ranks to be better, and to do more to serve te iwi Māori. His constant support and encouragement is felt not only within our organisation, but also by our friends across the profession.”

Justice Williams has made a significant contribution to New Zealand’s jurisprudence, including his role in supporting and promoting tikanga and Te Tiriti o Waitangi across the legal landscape. One of the key objectives of Te Hunga Rōia Māori is promoting, and encouraging the use of te reo Māori, and tikanga Māori in the professional fora.

“Justice Williams has a mastery of te reo and tikanga Māori, and an on-going commitment to Māori identity at the highest levels of the judiciary. His extensive experience and brilliant legal mind will be a valuable asset to the Supreme Court bench,” says Ms Murray. “When Justice Williams was appointed to the Court of Appeal in 2018, all Māori lawyers walked a little taller that day. Today we feel like giants and know that anything is possible.”

Justice William’s appointment was announced yesterday by the Attorney-General Hon David Parker. An appointment was required after Justice Sir William Young was named to chair the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the attack on the Christchurch Mosques on 15 March 2019.

Justice Williams graduated with an LLB from Victoria University in 1986 and joined the faculty as a junior lecturer in law. He graduated with an LLM (Hons) from the University of British Columbia in 1988.

In 1988, he joined Kensington Swan, establishing the first unit specialising in Māori issues in a major New Zealand law firm, and developing a large environmental practice. He became a partner at Kensington Swan in 1992, leaving in 1994 to co‑found Walters Williams & Co in Auckland, and Wellington.

Justice Williams was appointed Chief Judge of the Māori Land Court in 1999. The next year, he was appointed acting Chairperson of the Waitangi Tribunal, and was permanently appointed in 2004.

He was appointed as a Judge of the High Court in 2008 and a Judge of the Court of Appeal in 2018.



Marcia Murray, Tumuaki Wahine: TumuakiWahine@maorilawsociety.co.nz

Jaimee Paenga, Secretary: Secretary@maorilawsociety.co.nz