2018 04 18 Tawhiao McMaster Law student LLB 75558

Tawhiao McMaster

With his background, studying Te Reo Māori and Māori cultural studies was an easy decision.

Co-president of Te Whakahiapo – Māori Law Students’ Association

2018 04 18 Tawhiao McMaster Law student LLB 75558

What made you decide to come to the University of Waikato?

After getting a taste of the other universities in New Zealand, I felt that Waikato was the only University that could develop my background and interest in Māori culture and language. Waikato feels like home to me now – coming here was the best decision I’ve ever made for my academia.

Why did you choose law, Te Reo Māori and Māori cultural studies?

With my background, studying Te Reo Māori and Māori cultural studies was an easy decision. I have been involved with Māori land and language for as long as I can remember. When I was six years old, I was involved in protests to put the ‘H’ back in Whanganui. Now that I am studying law, I feel like I am getting into a position where I can make a real difference in this area. I also want to pave a pathway for my younger siblings, nieces and nephews.

What’s your favourite subject and why?

Māori land law. It’s taught by Associate Dean Māori, Professor Linda Te Aho and it’s impossible to be bored in her class. I like the subject because it covers a wide range of topics, from the Treaty of Waitangi and tino rangatiratanga, the colonial and tribal wars, to Te Ture Whenua Māori 1993 and our current system today. It’s about the retention and protection of our land, a topic that really resonates with me as a Māori.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I begin my days with a karakia then go for a run. Once I’m at uni, I meet some friends, go to classes and manage my duties as co-president of Te Whakahiapo – Māori Law Students’ Association. It gets quite busy, but it’s pretty fun – if I sit down, I start to crave for something to do.

Most memorable moment of your degree so far?

Definitely being employed over the summer for my Iwi Incorporation, Atihau Whanganui Incorporation. I was the unclaimed dividends task manager, allowing me to work with the Aotea Maori Land Court, and the Whanganui High Court.

You recently presented at the World Water Moot Court in Brazil. Tell us about that.

The opportunity was fully-funded by the United Nations and I was given full UN delegation status. It was the first time I left the country and I got to learn from some of the top Indigenous law scholars in the world, including a top Harvard graduate. There I was, a Kiwi boy in my jandals, learning with these amazing people.

At the conference, I spoke about our beautiful Whanganui River and Waikato River, and talked about our fight for indigenous rights to be recognised in the realm of law. It was an amazing experience and I even had the opportunity to teach some few words to our friends over there, like “Kia ora”.

What's your number one tip for making the most of uni life?

Take every opportunity that comes your way; you can’t learn how to swim without jumping in the water.

What do you plan on doing when you finish your degree?

I have been offered an internship with a law firm called Kahui Legal, the leading Māori law firm in the country. They are the first law firm to take on a contract with the Māori Language Commission – they want all of their staff to speak Te Reo. I will be taking in as much as I can while I’m there and aim to continue with such work throughout my life.

2018 04 18 Tawhiao McMaster Law student LLB 75558

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