From managing media enquiries for her sister (Labour MP Willow-Jean Prime) to running a law firm, social enterprise and community fund, it’s no wonder Season-Mary Downs hasn’t watched TV in over a decade.
Waikato PhD student Season-Mary has wanted to help her community long before starting a conjoint Law and Arts degree in 2008 and it’s the reason she has returned to study twice since. She says her motivation to keep studying was driven by a desire to address issues within the community. “My sister and I are loyal to Waikato. We came back to pursue PhDs here because we knew that we would have the University’s support.”
Since returning to the Bay of Islands, Season-Mary launched Tukau Law and Consultancy, a firm that focusses on Māori legal issues. Season-Mary also works to empower the Southern Bay of Islands community through community fund and social enterprise Tukau Legacy.
What does the award you received from the Māori Law Association mean to you?
It was an honour to be acknowledged for the work that I do outside of my law firm. It’s really nice to be recognised by the senior members of the association as well.
What inspired you to start Tukau Law and Consultancy?
We wanted to focus on law relating to treaty claims processes. The University’s Faculty of Law was a large influence on our emphasis on the treaty claims process, because we had lecturers who teach very bi-cultural and diverse law, like Linda Te Aho.
And how about your clothing line Tukau Legacy?
Through our work in law we speak with a lot of elders who know the history of these lands and their people, so the text on our clothing represents those stories. The clothing line is designed to empower people, and any proceeds go back to the Tukau Community Fund. We’re currently working on setting up a clothing store in Kawakawa, which will be open over the summer.
You run a law firm, social enterprise and a community fund. This sounds very full-on. What does a typical day look like for you?
Well, I haven’t watched TV in over a decade – if you’re passionate then there are sometimes sacrifices. I wake up before 6.30 and respond to emails before helping my two nieces get ready for school. My business partner and best friend Chelsea and I go get coffee and start doing admin and planning. I work until late in the night, with breaks for exercise and meals. Amongst this all, I fit in some study for my PhD. No two days are the same but every day is dynamic.
What made you return to study a PhD at Waikato?
There are still a lot of issues in our country and more thorough research is needed. I believe the University of Waikato is where I get the best support for this research.
While you were studying your conjoint undergraduate degree, did you have an idea what you wanted to achieve after graduating?
Definitely. I always knew I wanted to make a difference to the community so studying towards a law degree was the best way I could see to help. It’s a privilege to be able to use my law degree and the knowledge I’ve gained to help the community.
Any advice for someone looking to start a social enterprise?
If you’re passionate then you will definitely make a difference. Go for it and follow your heart!