Embracing Māoritanga

Indiana Shewen is the Faculty of Law's graduate speaker at this week’s graduation ceremony but she almost didn’t make it through the first year of her degree.

Indiana Shewen
Indiana Shewen

It was only after a conversation with Faculty of Law senior lecturer Dr Carwyn Jones that she decided to stay on. This week she graduated with a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Arts in Māori Resource Management and Public Policy.

“My Mum passed away in my first year of studies and I really struggled to find the motivation to continue with law,” says Indiana. “He didn't know it at the time, but Dr Jones introduced me to this area of law—Māori Customary Law—which I felt immediately passionate about. I felt connected to it because it helped me feel closer to my Mum.”

“Mum is a wahine Māori. She always encouraged me to embrace my Māoritanga, and she believed this would ground me in whichever career path I chose. Because of this whakaaro [thought], I sought guidance from Dr Jones who shared some of the mahi [work] he had been doing on the recognition of tīkanga Māori in the New Zealand legal system. I came out of my meeting with him knowing that I was where I was supposed to be—I honestly believe that our conversation that day is the reason why I am graduating with my law degree.”

A recipient of a Victoria Excellence Scholarship, and the John Miller Award in Social Justice and Community Development in her final year, Indiana was widely involved in the Faculty of Law community during her studies.

Highlights include contributing to the Māori Law Review as the student editor, working as a research assistant for Dr Carwyn Jones, representing her peers as the Faculty Representative for Ngā Rangahautira, and serving as Vice President (Equity and Administration) for Victoria University of Wellington Law Student’s Society.

Indiana volunteered at the Wellington Community Law Centre and worked as a law clerk for Kahui Legal in 2017, completing a summer internship at Kensington Swan in 2018.

During her final year of study, she travelled to Wales to compete in the International Negotiation Competition, where she gained second place out of 26 countries alongside her colleague Harrison Cunningham.

Indiana is currently undertaking a year-long full immersion te reo Māori course at Te Wānanga Takiura in Auckland and hopes to use her knowledge to address legal issues facing Māori.