Friday 22 August 2014 8:08am
Members of Te Roopu Whai Pūtake at a Māori pre-graduation function in May (from left) Rachael Jones, Lauren Aspin, Renata Davis , Briar Ensor and Susannah Bull.
Te Roopu Whai Pūtake, Otago’s Māori Law Students’ Association, has officially grown up.
This weekend the Association, which was created to support and help Māori Law students and give them a presence and voice in the Faculty of Law, turns 21.
Like all 21st celebrations, this weekend’s event will be an opportunity to get together and celebrate milestones. And there have been many to be proud of.
The Association created the annual Te Wiki o Te Ture Māori (Māori Issues in Law Week) – which has brought many high profile Māori lawyers to the Unviersity to inspire its students. It annually attends the national Māori law hui (Te Hunga Roia Māori o Aotearoa/New Zealand Māori Lawyers Association) and supports Māori graduation, presenting each law graduand with a pounamu taonga.
"It started off with a few committed Māori Law students and has grown from strength to strength to become one of the strongest Māori student roopu on campus."
Associate Professor Jacinta Ruru, who provides a lot of support to the Māori Law students, says Te Roopu Whai Pūtake has come a long way in 21 years.
“It started off with a few committed Māori Law students and has grown from strength to strength to become one of the strongest Māori student roopu on campus. The roopu is a committed group of students that has a really strong identity - with its own waiata and Te Roopu Whai Pūtake branded clothing.”
Graduates of Te Roopu Whai Pūtake include the Chief Judge of the Māori Land Court and Chairperson of the Waitangi Tribunal Wilson Isaac, Māori Land Court Judge Sarah Reeves, well known lawyer Donna Hall, Rhodes Scholar Glen Goldsmith, leading Internatianal Indigenous law expert Claire Charters, and Fulbright scholar Natalie Coates.
Associate Professor Ruru (herself an Otago Law graduate) says this weekend’s 21st is the first reunion of Otago Māori Law Alumni.
“In some ways it is an opportunity to inspire our current students about the different careers you can do with a Law degree,” Associate Professor Ruru says. “We have lawyers working with iwi, those practising in New Zealand and overseas and some as judges, policy analysts, business owners, academics and more.”
Activities will include both formal and informal discussions, presentations by alumni and current students, and of course a hangi. A very special moment in the programme will be launching the Jolene Patuawa-Tuilave Māori Leadership in Law Scholarship. Jolene was tumuaki of Te Roopu Whai Pūtake in 1999 and was a prominent Māori lawyer until she passed away in 2010. This scholarship is in partnership with Ngati Whatua.
A fitting symbol
The symbol for Te Roopu Whai Pūtake is the Toroa (albatross). The toroa is unique to the Otago region and sacred to Kai Tahu.
“The toroa is symbolic to our students as it spends months of its life at sea circling the Antarctic and foraging for food, then returning to its home at Taiaroa Heads to breed,” explains Associate Professor Ruru. “This is analogous to the majority of our students who spend time away from their ancestral home in pursuit of "food" in the form of knowledge and education to take home to their people.”