14 Nov 2017

Graduate urges lawyers to learn te reo

11:12 am on 14 November 2017

A Māori law graduate from Hamilton has started teaching te reo Māori lessons at a law firm in Invercargill in a push to see the language more commonly used by lawyers.

Georgia Woodward gives te reo lessons to her colleagues.

Georgia Woodward gives te reo lessons to her colleagues. Photo: Supplied

Georgia Woodward said te reo had an important place in the law profession because a large proportion of people who passed through the justice system were Māori.

She said if lawyers wanted to build better relationships with their Māori clients, knowing how to speak some reo was important.

"The fact of the matter is Māori occupy all of the negative statistics in New Zealand so being able to pronounce things correctly, being able to greet Māori in their language - it really goes a long way to meet Māori where they're at," said Georgia Woodward.

For 15 minutes each morning Ms Woodward runs a te reo Māori class at the firm using her own resources and lesson plans.

Lawyer Fin Wall said he loved the lessons and understood how crucial knowledge of te reo can be as a lawyer in New Zealand.

"Te reo really has a place in New Zealand's legislation, I mean we've had the high court rules changing this year adding te reo to the court documents and the headings."

Georgia Woodward is determined to teach her workmates the benefits of learning te reo.

Georgia Woodward is determined to teach her workmates the benefits of learning te reo. Photo: Supplied

Partner at Preston Russell Riki Donelly said the length of the lessons took about the same amount of time to get a cup of coffee and have some morning tea.

He said having a knowledge of te reo in court when dealing with Māori was a sign of respect.

"Whether they be a civil client or a criminal defendant there is a certain amount of, I think, of respect of pronouncing someone's name right. I do also think it helps understand Māoridom a bit better to understanding how the language is constructed."

Partner of Kahui Legal in Wellington Matanuku Mahuika agrees and said knowledge of te reo was beneficial in a profession that dealt a lot with Māori.

"The legal profession deals a lot with Māori people and I think there's a role for the profession to be promoting first of all the use of Māori language but also recognising that this is a diverse country and central to those things is the Māori culture."

Georgia Woodward said not all lawyers at the firm attended the lessons but was determined to convince others that just 15 minutes a day of learning could make a real difference in their line of work.

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