Tikanga and te ao Māori will now be taught in all of the core papers of a law degree, after a unanimous vote on Friday 7 May by the Council of Legal Education. The Council of Legal Education sets the requirements for all LLB courses in Aotearoa.
President of Te Roopū Whai Pūtake (Otago Māori Law Students' Association), Evy Ngawhika, said: “We are excited about this momentum towards recognising the first laws of Aotearoa within the legal curriculum. This is a move towards which many have been working on for a long time.”
“At this stage, we can’t say for sure what this will mean for law at Otago, but we are looking forward to understanding the decision in more detail,” she said. “A legal curriculum that incorporates aspects of tikanga and te ao Māori is reflective of the current legal landscape in New Zealand and will only serve to better equip future lawyers with the skills necessary for the profession.”
SOULS, the Law Students’ Association at Otago, said that they “fully support[ed] the position of Evy and TRWP, and believed it was more important for the Māori tauira to share their perspective on this decision.”
The New Zealand Law Students’ Association (NZLSA), who have two representatives on the Council, noted that the Council has been working for over a year on indigenising legal education in New Zealand. NZLSA said that the decision to make te ao Māori compulsory “is only a first step. Next, the CLE will consider a prescription for teaching tikanga Māori as a separate core law course.”
“There is a long way to go before we can ensure law schools and the legal profession are doing their part to honour Te Tiriti,” NZLSA said. “However, we are proud to see some change on the horizon. Our country’s law graduates must understand the importance of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and treat tikanga as an independent and equal source of law in Aotearoa.”
Acting Dean of the Faculty of Law, Professor Shelley Griffiths, and Law Professor Jacinta Ruru said that Otago’s “Faculty of Law is pleased about this change and will embrace its opportunities.” They said that tikanga and te ao Māori were already “addressed within parts of the law degree but we look forward to developing our thinking and practice as we work together on this.”