“In my university days here in Wellington, we were the generation on the streets calling for the Māori language to be recognised, calling for mana motuhake and rangatiratanga [separate and independent authority], calling for the mana of the Treaty to be recognised in the law. Aotearoa was growing up at the same time we were,” says Sir Joe.
Sir Joe is from Manaia in the Coromandel, but grew up in Hastings. He attended Lindisfarne College there on a scholarship, becoming the first person in his whānau to pass School Certificate. He enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts, planning to major in Māori Studies, before meeting a group of Māori Law students, including future politician Shane Jones. The following year, he switched to a double degree programme in Māori and Law.
“Once I started Law school and realised the power of law, there was no looking back,” says Sir Joe. “The knitting together of the law, reo, and tikanga gave me my life’s path.”