Law professor Claire Charters joins Human Rights Commission
8 March 2023
Indigenous rights scholar and activist Professor Claire Charters is stepping into a new role with the Human Rights Commission but will continue her work in the Faculty of Law.
Professor Claire Charters (Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngā Puhi and Tainui) has been formally appointed to Te Kāhui Tika Tangata, the Human Rights Commission to lead work on Indigenous Peoples’ rights.
On Monday 6 March, she was welcomed with a pōwhiri into the role of Rongomau Taketake, Indigenous rights governance partner.
“The pōwhiri was beautiful. I felt very welcomed and it was lovely that the Law School kaiārahi and my Ngāti Whakaue kaumātua were there to hand me over to the Commission. It meant a lot.”
Te Amokapua Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt says the Commission, which partnered with the National Iwi Chairs Forum to bolster its Indigenous leadership, including the appointment of Professor Charters, is delighted to have her on board.
“She brings internationally recognised expertise on Indigenous Peoples’ rights which will greatly benefit the Commission’s work,” he says.
In the new role, Professor Charters will provide tangata whenua leadership with a view to enhancing the Commission’s governance. She will also advise and support existing projects and mahi to advance understanding of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Progressing Indigenous Peoples’ rights here is about honouring our tūpuna and ensuring future generations can achieve the vision set down in Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
Professor Charters spearheaded the Constitutional Kōrero at Waipapa Taumata Rau in 2022. It saw leading minds on constitutional law and politics discuss arguments and options for constitutional transformation to realise Māori rights within Te Tiriti o Waitangi, He Whakaputanga and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
She has published and spoken widely on the Declaration, as well as comparative Indigenous constitutional rights in New Zealand, Canada and the United States, and tino rangatiratanga and tikanga Māori in Aotearoa. She sees an opportunity within her new role to uplift the Indigenous rights work the Commission is undertaking.
“I’m looking forward to putting into practice a lot of my hopes and ambitions for constitutional transformation and the realisation of Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Progressing those rights is about honouring our tūpuna and ensuring future generations can achieve the vision set down in Te Tiriti o Waitangi to enjoy equality alongside all New Zealanders,” says Professor Charters.
Meanwhile, Meng Foon, the Kaihautū Whakawhanaungatanga-ā-Iwi Race Relations Commissioner, says the Forum’s selection, and the appointment of Claire Charters is another step towards the Commission respecting and implementing te Tiriti o Waitangi.
“Claire has extensive experience working on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and that will be a huge asset as we support the implementation of the declaration here in Aotearoa New Zealand,” says Foon.
National Iwi Chairs Forum Pou Tikanga Professor Margaret Mutu hopes the Commission’s joint initiative with the Forum is one that the whole public sector can learn from.
“We relish this opportunity to work with Te Kāhui Tika Tangata to ensure that it is responsive and accountable to Tangata Whenua aspirations and needs,” says Professor Mutu.
Professor Charters has been appointed as Rongomau Taketake for one year, in a part-time capacity.
Sophie Boladeras | Media adviser
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