Sunday, July 22, 2012
Mike Butler: Her Honour and te reo
The phrases to be used are for the opening: “Turituri mo Tona Honore, te Kaiwhakawa, Taki tu - Silence for His/Her Honour the Judge. All stand. Kua tuwhera te Kooti a-Rohe - The District Court is now open.” For an adjournment or conclusion of a session: “Turituri. Taki tu. Kua hiki te Kooti - Silence. All stand. The court is adjourned. Kua haere ano te Kooti - The court is resumed.”
New Zealand Law Society president Jonathan Temm, who claimed there were no objections from the legal fraternity although I know of one who is spitting tacks over the move, said it was surprising that the Maori language was only now being introduced, considering it had been an official language of New Zealand since 1987. He said that there was already a significant amount of “te reo” (the language) being used as everyday language in state agencies and other courts.
Activist Dun Mihaka, who achieved five minutes of fame for baring his backside to the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1983, has been credited with setting the ball rolling for getting the Maori language into court. While appearing on a charge of fighting with police, in 1979, the district court refused to hear the Maori rights protester's address in Maori. Mihaka, who was acting for himself, appealed to the High Court and then the Court of Appeal.
In 1987, "the language" was given official status, leading to bi-lingual naming of government departments.
Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue informed the New Zealand Law Society that the move was “to give greater recognition to the first language of Aotearoa”, according to the Law Points July 12, 2012 edition.
Doogue, who has held the position of chief district court judge since September 1, last year, has a keen interest in languages and issues of culture, is a fluent speaker of French and German, and is working on her fluency in the Maori language, according to her bio on the Courts of New Zealand website. She is also trying to identify “tikanga-based” (the Maori way of doing things) counselling and mediation services for the Family Court.
Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar called the move, which will make the courts sound a bit like Radio New Zealand around news time in the mornings, a waste of time, and New Zealand First MP Winston Peters said: "With the greatest respect - it's not going to help the spread of the Maori language at all."
It may be of interest that the Maori language is one of New Zealand's two official languages, the other being sign language. While English is the de facto language used in government, business, and day-to-day communication, it lacks the status of an official language.
Jury's out on compulsory use of Maori in court, New Zealand Herald, July 18, 2012. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10820362
Judge Jan-Marie Doogue, http://www.courtsofnz.govt.nz/district/district/the-judges/judge-chief
at 12:43 PM