The two groups now have the right to vote on council decisions and for Law Society president
The New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa has announced the addition of the New Zealand Māori Law Society | Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa and the Pacific Lawyers Association to its council as permanent members.
In a statement, the Law Society said that its constitution was amended by council members to provide for full membership to both organisations at a meeting in Wellington last week, giving them the right to vote on council decisions and for the office of president of the Law Society.
The motion was formally put to council by Tiana Epati, president of the New Zealand Law Society, and was led by vice-president for Auckland Jacque Lethridge, with the full support of the board.
“This is a historic moment for the legal profession,” said Epati. “For some time, we have talked about the goal of improving the representation and balance of both the Law Society and the legal profession. That can only be done through partnership which requires an equal seat at the table. By giving established organisations – who have long held the mandate for Māori and Pacific lawyers – the right to independently vote, we have taken a significant step forward.”
The Māori Law Society was formally established in 1988 to provide an opportunity for Māori lawyers to discuss and debate issues relevant to Māori. Members span the legal profession, judiciary, parliament, and academia.
“All of us have a mutual desire to effect change through the law within and for Māori,” said Jaime-Lee Tuuta, female co-president of the Māori Law Society. “By being a full member at the top table we will ensure Māori voices are heard while also maintaining our independence, which we know is of the utmost importance to our members.”
Meanwhile, the Pacific Lawyers Association was established in 2001 and is the recognised voice of Pacific people and Pacific lawyers in the legal profession.
“Our relationship with the Law Society has continued to strengthen over the years, particularly since the election of Tiana Epati as president,” said Tania Sharkey, president of the Pacific Lawyers Association. “Our position will be enhanced by the ability to formally participate in the decisions made by the council, which is significant given they affect the legal profession as a whole.”