He poroporoaki ki a Dr Moana Jackson—Mourning Dr Moana Jackson

The community of Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington mourns the loss of Dr Moana Jackson (Ngāti Kahungunu, Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Porou) on 31 March.

Man with grey hair and woman with dark hair in front of a marae door
Moana Jackson and Professor Rawinia Higgins
“It is with a heavy heart we inform the whānau that Dr Moana Jackson passed away. He will return to Matahiwi Marae in Hastings. His contribution to Te Herenga Waka over many years has been immeasurable,” said Tumu Ahurei—Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Māori) Professor Rawinia Higgins (Tūhoe), in this article on the Newsroom site.

Dr Jackson has had an enormous impact on the study of Māori law at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington, and the practice of Māori and Indigenous law throughout Aotearoa New Zealand and the world. Toi Tātāriki—Pro-Vice Chancellor of Government, Law and Business, Professor Mark Hickford says:

“While he belongs to the ages, Dr Jackson’s influence traverses the generations, strong and unstilled. He Whaipaanga Hou, his compellingly visionary project on Māori and the criminal justice system from the 1980s speaks powerfully to this very day, inspiring others in numerous ways, igniting thought and action. He Whaipaanga Hou 2018 continues that masterful work into this century.

“Through Matike Mai Aotearoa, Dr Jackson and others illuminated the possibilities of constitutional transformation. His mentoring of an array of opinion-leaders and influencers across these islands remains a living testament to his manifold contributions, a testament that is vital, eloquent, and clear. His legacies abound, in tireless actions for constitutional change and social justice, and in the memories of those who listened as he shared stories of his mokopuna with such aroha. Our thoughts go out to all those he cherished.”

An alumni of the University’s law and criminology programmes, Dr Jackson received an honorary doctorate from the University in 2017, after decades of association with the institution. He has worked extensively on international indigenous issues around the world, including working to help draft the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In 1988, he co-founded Ngā Kaiwhakamārama i Ngā Ture (The Māori Legal Service). His investigation into the justice system and its bias against Māori reshaped the national debate and changed our understandings of Māori law.

His doctoral citation states: “Moana Jackson is a strong campaigner against injustice and inequities. He is a highly sought-after commentator for his measured analysis of the processes of colonisation as they relate to the Treaty of Waitangi and indigenous rights, and indigenous constitutionalism and human rights more generally.”

He was appointed Visiting Fellow at the Faculty of Law in 1995, and was influential in shaping the curriculum of the ground-breaking Māori Laws and Philosophy programme at Te Wānanga o Raukawa.

The impact of his death will be particularly felt by the Faculty of Law, including the tauira of Ngā Rangahautira, the Māori law students association which he shaped in the late 1980s.

Māori lecturer in law Luke Fitzmaurice says, “The transformative impact that Moana had on this institution, on our profession, and on Aotearoa is hard to describe. Moana had an incredible intellect and was unwavering in his beliefs, and every word he spoke was delivered with such care and kindness.

“He had the courage to describe the impacts of racism and colonisation on Māori at a time when it was not yet safe to do so, but he never wavered. His words have been a beaccon for so many of us—inspiring us, challenging us, and making us believe that a more just Aotearoa was possible.

“He inspired us to be not just lawyers who happened to be Māori, but Māori who happened to be lawyers, and the ongoing inpact of that will continue to be felt for generations. Moe mai rā e te rangatira.”

Professor Richard Boast, who specialises in the history of land law and te Tiriti o Waitangi, says, “Moana was a great Māori intellectual and scholar whose work on Māori and the criminal justice system has yet to be surpassed. Moana always possessed a conceptual clarity and an intellectual rigour that was unique to himself. His calm presence has been pivotal one for a long time and, while he will be greatly missed by so many, it is some comfort to know that his work and his legacy will live on. Even now, the issues he analysed with such distinction remain pivotal and are yet to be resolved; his ideas will remain fundamental for many years. Haere, haere, haere.”

Dr Morgan Godfrey, who has just joined the Faculty of Law, has written this obituary in The Guardian.

The students of Ngā Rangahautira thank Moana for his contribution:

“Kua hinga te tōtara haemata, te totara whakahīhī o te wao tapu nui a Tāne Mahuta.
Puna o te kī, whītiki o te kī. Whakaniko o te kupu.
Tītoko o te rangi, whakawhiti o te rā, whakaāio whenua.
Te poutokomanawa o Ngā Rangahautira.
Te mūrau a te tini, te wenerau a te mano.

“Moana was an integral part of Ngā Rangahautira, te poutokomanwa me kī, the centre pou, the heart of the whare.

“During his time here, he was a member of the group that founded the ‘Aotearoa Māori Law Students Association’. He and his law school friends would set up meetings, talk study and, as he put it, “law things”. He continued to support and advocate for Māori in the Law, and Indigenous rights.

“Moana will be greatly missed by past and present tauira. He is an integral and important figure within our university community, law school, and Ngā Rangahautira rōpū.”

Nō reira, e te kōtuku rerenga tahi, moe mai rā.