19 Mar 2015

'Better training needed' for Māori to become judges

9:38 am on 19 March 2015

The Māori legal profession is calling for better training for tāngata whenua to become judges.

Māmari Stephens

Māmari Stephens Photo: Supplied

It said senior lawyers needed to be given more encouragement if they wanted to join the bench.

A senior lecturer in the School of Law at the Victoria University of Wellington said more effort by firms and the Ministry of Justice was needed to help them gain access to networks that they might not otherwise have.

Māmari Stephens said there was a gap in opportunities that needs to be addressed, and more promotion of a career in the judiciary as a viable option.

Ms Stephens said if senior Māori lawyers want to become judges, there should be an opportunity for them to be mentored as part of their professional development.

She said the idea of Māori being lawyers and judges needed to be normalised.

Māmari Stephens

Māmari Stephens, Senior Lecturer, Te Kura Tātai Ture - Faculty of Law at Victoria University of Wellington Photo: SUPPLIED

"There could be some work done on targetting Māori.

"There are some institutions like the Rangatahi courts and other opportunities for them to become more involved, but it's not just about targetting Māori for Māori-tasked positions, it's about targetting Māori so they're represented at all levels of the judiciary."

Māori lawyer Tai Ahu agrees.

"There needs to be active encouragement on behalf of the Government to support senior Māori lawyers, who already have an understanding of culture and language, to aspire to become judges and take their place on the bench."

A spokesperson for the Attorney-General said in a statement that the Attorney-General makes judicial appointments on the basis of merit with a commitment to actively promoting diversity in the judiciary.

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