By Rosemary Rangitauira 20/06/2022

Dr Carwyn Jones’ vision is to see Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the law given equal mana.

Carwyn who holds a PhD in law and society and currently teaches Ahunga Tikanga (Māori Laws and Philosophy) at Te Wānanga o Raukawa after 15 years at Victoria University of Wellington has devoted his efforts to this matakitenga (vision).

Carwyn (Ngāti Kahungunu, Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki) says Te Tiriti motivates him.

“My interest came from a need for indigenous rights to be recognised. The importance for Māori to have our rights, and our systems of governance, acknowledged alongside the law of the state as a matter of justice. Indigenous governance and processes for managing social interactions for dealing with conflict and social disruptions resonate particularly with Indigenous peoples, but also with many other communities. Utilising all systems of governance can help us address some of the big confronting societal issues we’re facing at the moment and there is no bigger issue than climate change.”

He’s been involved in numerous research projects including:

Carwyn says the creation of more co-governance arrangements is a step forward for Aotearoa.

“I think this approach is a step in the right direction. As is the establishment of the Māori Health Authority whereby the idea is that we ought to be making more space for Māori led, Māori designed and the Māori delivery of programmes because there is a real need.”

But he says more is required.

“I’d like to see the tino rangatiratanga (self-determination) space further developed, which will sometimes require stepping back from the kāwanatanga (governance) side of the equation. Te Tiriti provides us with a good framework for how to think about those relationships, and we can think about how to establish mutually respectful, balanced relationships between the kāwanatanga space and the tino rangatiratanga space.”

Carwyn’s vision is echoed in the 2019 He Puapua report of the Working Group on a plan to realise the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Aotearoa | New Zealand.

“There’s a really neat diagram in the report (Diagram 1 – page vi) which shows where our society is now and where we should be, which is illustrated by two spheres of influence or authority.”

The diagram highlights where we were in 2019, a sphere that is dominated by common governance (kāwanatanga). While the other sphere illustrates that Aotearoa should strive to operate equally under systems of kāwanatanga and rangatiratanga (self-determination) by 2040. The bicentennial of the signing of the 1840 Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Carwyn is driven by the following words of the Māori prophet, Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Tūruki:


Mā te ture anō te ture e āki.’


“I like it because Te Kooti Arikirangi lived outside of Pākehā law and challenged it. He’s saying that after I’m gone the path that you need to follow is one of law. Because only the law can challenge the law. So how can you use that as a tool to overcome oppression. Using the law but in a way that upholds tikanga Māori.”

Te Kooti’s kupu (words) provide a philosophy followed by many rōia Māori (Māori lawyers).

“Two people who were important in my decision to study law are Moana Jackson and Sir Eddie Taihakurei Durie. Seeing the work by Moana Jackson and hearing him speak as well as reading his work. And similarly, Sir Eddie and his mahi at the Waitangi Tribunal. They both – in different ways – used the law as a discipline to recognise Māori rights,” he says.

Their lessons have inspired Carwyn’s style of teaching.

“One of the most satisfying things in the education space is seeing the work that the students go on to do. And not for one minute would I take credit for what they do. But it’s nice to be able to have had some time with them before seeing them go off and do amazing things.”

He says he’s been humbled to see the diversity of mahi by his former students.

“In particular I think of them engaging with the community, organising activities of activism. Their real commitment to supporting Māori including in family or criminal law as well as supporting iwi with corporate governance or challenging government by legitimately adopting the law as a tool to help Māori achieve their aspirations.”

Carwyn is encouraged by the number of Māori who are taking up the mantle to study law.

Bonus Read

Dr Carwyn Jones has contributed to a wealth of research including:

And the following articles about Tikanga Māori and the Common Law. Carwyn is also a co-editor of the Māori Law Review.

*Photo credit: VUW Image Services