Aotearoa New Zealand Centre for Indigenous Peoples and the Law

The Auckland Law School is a leading New Zealand law school in the area of Indigenous peoples and the law.

About us

Members of Te Tai Haruru, the Māori academic group, play a key role in developing and enhancing the Indigenous peoples and the law group together with our Pouawhina Māori and Te Rakau Ture, the Māori student association. Our work includes significant research, published the world over, an impressive array of courses, initiatives to promote student engagement in Indigenous issues, sometimes expert evidence in cases on Māori and Indigenous rights, relationships with a number of domestic, Pacific and international organisations such as the United Nations, collaborations with other universities and leading international scholars that focus on Indigenous peoples issues and training for judges on legal developments relevant to Māori and Indigenous peoples in advancing their rights legally.

Dr. Nin Tomas

The precursor to the Centre, the Nin Tomas Indigenous peoples and the law group, was established in honour of Dr Nin Tomas who passed in February 2014. Dr Nin Tomas was the first Māori person to earn a PhD in law and the Law School’s most senior Māori academic. Nin was a founding member of Te Tai Haruru and led the Law School for many years in the development of initiatives in support of Te Ao Māori, Māori law students and Indigenous peoples’ rights globally.

Nin is a big loss to the Law School and we deeply miss her rigour, humour, intellect and support.  

Dr Nin Thomas

Centre events


  • Justice Glazebrook
  • Professor Rob Williams: teaching an intensive LLM in Semester 2 of 2019 on indigenous peoples and the law.


Centre achievements


  • Deputy Chief Judge of the Māori Land Court, Caren Fox, delivered the 2018 Nin Tomas lecture in November.
  • The Centre made a submission to the Minister for Crown / Māori Relations with proposals for constitutional reform to better accommodate Māori.
  • Dr Andrew Erueti was awarded the 2018 Fulbright Ngā Pae o te Maramatanga Scholarship to research human rights and Crown and Māori relationships. He is conducting research at the University of Colorado in Boulder on the effects of the New Zealand government endorsing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, working alongside James Anaya, the former UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.
  • Tracey Whare was awarded her LLM with first class honours for her research on Indigenous Peoples and International Law in May 2018. Tracey then won the Legal Research Foundation award for best LLM thesis.
  • We welcomed Natalie Coates LLB (Hons) and LLM (Harvard). She comes to us from legal practice at Kahui Legal.
  • We established a scholarship for a senior student to undertake research for the UN and study indigenous rights at Columbia University.
  • The Centre is working with the New Zealand Law Commission to provide research on legal issues affecting Māori.
  • Dr Fleur Te Aho spoke at a symposium on "Retribution vs Restoration: what is the future of the prison system in New Zealand?"
  • Associate Professor Amokura Kawharu gave a paper on the Arbitration of Treaty of Waitangi Settlement Disputes at the AMINZ-ICCA International Arbitration Day in Queenstown in April 2018 (see link below).
  • In February 2018, the Centre hosted a one-day symposium centred on the judgement of the New Zealand Supreme Court in Wakatu v Attorney-General. Participants included Law School colleagues, along with national and international visitors.
  • Dr Claire Charters continues her role as trustee on the UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples, supporting indigenous peoples to bring their issues to UN human rights bodies.
  •  Dr Claire Charters and Natalie Coates have been awarded a Borrin grant for the Centre to establish an Indigenous Peoples' Rights Impact Programme. This will include providing input into law reform that impacts Māori and Māori rights and enabling staff and students to provide expert advice and advocacy support in relevant test cases.


  • Dr Claire Charters was awarded a 2017 Rutherford Discovery Fellowship to investigate the ways Indigenous peoples' rights are constitutionally recognised throughout the world. Read more. Or hear Claire talking about her Fellowship Research.
  • Dr Andrew Erueti participated in the Waitangi Tribunal on abuse of Māori children in state care and has been in media promoting the care. Watch the video.
  • Professor David Williams and Associate Professor Claire Charters supported Wakatu Incorporation, led by former Te Tai Haruru member Kerensa Johnston, in Wakatu's successful argument in the Supreme Court that the Crown owns Māori fiduciary duties. Read more.
  • Associate Professor Amokura Kawharu provided expert evidence in the Waitangi Tribunal with respect to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.


  • Dr Claire Charters was appointed by the President of the United Nations General Assembly to assist him in facilitating negotiations on enhancing Indigenous peoples’ participation in the United Nations. 
  • Dr Andrew Erueti successfully defended his PhD thesis on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Associate Professor Claire Charters with the President of the General Assembly (centre), the Ambassadors of Finland and Ghana and Professor James Anaya (right).


  • Professor Jane Kelsey was engaged in highlighting concerns with the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement together with former student Moana Maniapoto: 


We have enjoyed hosting a number of international visitors including:

  • The Ontario Minister of Aboriginal Affairs in April 2016
  • Liz Medicine Crow, President/CEO of the First Alaskans Institute, a non-profit organization that undertakes policy research, develops Alaska Native youth leaders and communities, in February 2016
  • A group of Aboriginal law students from Adelaide in 2015
  • Former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Professor S James Anaya in July 2015

Natalie Coates

We are thrilled to welcome Natalie Coates to Auckland Law, a brilliant new addition to our team. Natalie is tangata whenua from Teteko and Whakatane. She graduated from the University of Otago in 2010 with a Bachelor of Laws (first class honours) and a Bachelor of Arts (first class honours, majoring in Maori Studies) from the University of Otago. In 2011 Natalie received the Fulbright Nga Pae o te Maramatanga graduate award, the New Zealand Law Foundation Ethel Benjamin Scholarship and a Ngarimu VC and 28th (Maori) Battalion Memorial Masters Scholarship to support her studies towards an LL.M (Masters of Law) from Harvard University. Natalie has previously worked at Aurere Law, Te Runanga o Ngati Awa and as a volunteer intern at Survival International in London.

Read more about Natalie.

Natalie Coates

What centre academics are doing

Centre members have published the world over on issues as diverse as Māori and criminal justice, the Waitangi Tribunal, tikanga Māori, the relationship between Māori and the Crown, early tax law and the Māori, constitutional law, and Indigenous peoples’ rights under international law.

Te Tai Haruru also publishes Te Tai Haruru: Journal of Māori Legal Writing: 2018 volume.

Courses available

Auckland Law School offers a Certificate of Indigenous Peoples and the Law – Nga Toki o Te Ture – to students who pass 40 points or more from elective courses with Indigenous content.

Auckland Law School runs a number of courses in the specialist area of Indigenous peoples and the law. We offer courses in: Comparative Indigenous Law Topics; Contemporary Te Tiriti o Waitangi/Treaty of Waitangi Issues; International law and Indigenous peoples’ rights; Iwi Corporate Governance; Māori Land Law; Honours course in Comparative Indigenous Peoples and the Law; and Tikanga Māori.

The Law School offers a course on international law and Indigenous peoples with the Law Faculty, University of the South Pacific.

Masters-level courses have included:

  • Waitangi Tribunal: Past, present and future (2016)
  • Indigenous peoples: law and policy (2015 and 2017)

In addition, a number of courses include components of Māori-related legal issues, including Youth Justice; Law and Society; Criminal Law; Jurisprudence; Public Law.

Student recruitment and engagement

The Centre is actively engaged in recruitment, representing the Law School in University open days and Careers Expos.

Te Rākau Ture visits secondary school and community groups on annual haerenga to encourage Māori to consider tertiary education.

Kathryn Arona

Kathryn is the Part I Māori law student mentor. In this role Kathryn provides academic and pastoral care to Part I Māori law students. This includes organising wānanga, advising students on questions relating to their law degree and the undergraduate targeted admissions scheme and providing study skills.

Kathryn Arona

Opportunities for students

The Law School offers unique opportunities for students to engage in international Indigenous peoples rights work.

The Centre encourages students to apply for, and participate in international courses specialising in Indigenous peoples rights and United Nations fellowships for Indigenous persons.

The Law School entered into a collaborative arrangement with the University of Arizona Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program in 2016. Auckland students with an interest in Indigenous peoples’ law and policy are able to undertake study in Arizona as a result of the agreement. We offer opportunities, including a scholarship, for student to research indigenous peoples rights at the UN.

Academic staff

Academics engaged in the work of the Aotearoa New Zealand Centre for Indigenous Peoples and the Law include:

Pouāwhina Māori

Grace Abbott

As the Pouāwhina Māori at the Faculty of Law, Grace Abbott is committed to providing support to all current Māori students pursuing law. Grace has iwi affiliations with Tūhoe and Ngāti Awa. She graduated with her law degree in 2018 and understands the sacrifice and commitment required to pursue a degree in law while trying to maintain a healthy work/life balance. Her main areas of interest lie in Public Law, particularly in the realm of Indigenous Law, Te Tiriti o Waitangi Law and Critical Legal Theory.

Grace Abbott