March 26 will mark 120 years since the admission of Tā Apirana Turupa Ngata as a barrister and solicitor. It's a significant event all New Zealanders can celebrate, says Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa.
Ngata was the first Māori admitted to the legal profession after becoming the first Māori to complete a law degree.
New Zealand Law Society President Kathryn Beck says, “Sir Apirana was one of most influential people of his time. He was a renowned Māori leader, an immensely influential figure in Māori land reform and development, a politician and Cabinet Minister, and a scholar. He is one of the very select group of national heroes we have chosen to commemorate on our currency. I am proud that he was also a member of the legal profession."
Te Hunga Roia Māori o Aotearoa (THRM) Co-President Ophir Cassidy says Sir Apirana was a great leader and visionary not only for his people of Ngati Porou but for the Māori people.
“His vision is encapsulated in his well-known proverb ‘E tipu e rea, Ko tō ringa ki nga rākau a te pākehā, Hei ora mō te tinana, Ko tō ngākau ki ngā tāonga a ō tipuna Māori, Hei tikitiki mō tō māhuna’: ‘Grow and branch forth tender youth, Take on and use the tools of the pakeha, For the sustenance of your wellbeing, Your heart to the treasures of your ancestors, To wear as an adornment/plume for your head’.
“Some 120 years later, THRM reflects on the words of Sir Apirana Turupa Ngata and continues to encourage Māori youth to take on the challenge of entering the legal profession – and grasping the tools (while remaining steadfast to the practices and values of our people) to become advocates for the well-being, sustenance and future of our Māori people,” she says.