Justice Joe Williams was the first fluent te reo MÄ?ori speaker to be appointed to the Court of Appeal.
In an article published by Victoria University's Faculty of Law in the 2018 edition of their annual alumni magazine, Justice Williams reflects on his career, including the revelation that he was the first member of his extended whÄ?nau to pass School Certificate and gain a law degree.
Justice Williams describes his work environment over the past year, and the changes that came with his move to the Court of Appeal.
"The great irony is my skills in te reo are pretty much redundant in this Court. That's no reflection on the Court, but rather the nature of the work we do here. Te reo is used by registry staff to open and close the courts, as happens in other jurisdictions, and counsel will often introduce themselves in MÄ?ori. And there's another sweet irony in the fact it's almost exclusively Crown counsel who do it, and they do it as a matter of principle, and with pride, and that's fantastic in my view. So, I do get to hear MÄ?ori during my working day but it's not an ordinary language of discourse as it was for me at the Waitangi Tribunal and as a MÄ?ori Land Court judge, where exchanges between judges, who were often MÄ?ori themselves, and parties, are routinely conducted in te reo.
I do grieve the lack of MÄ?ori as a standard language of discourse in this jurisdiction and realistically I don't think that will change in my lifetime," he says.
He was also asked whether law was buried in his whakapapa.