Bicultural lessons a firm foundation for Aotearoa Law students
University of Canterbury (UC) Law Lecturer Adrienne Paul (Ngāti Awa, Ngāi Tuhoe) has only been with the University of Canterbury (UC) since January but is already changing how bicultural lessons are woven into the Bachelor of Laws programme.
Adrienne teaches Māori Land Law at UC as well as teaching into a number of other level 1 and 2 Law papers.
“It’s really cool to see my students grapple with and understand that rivers and mountains in Aotearoa have the same rights as people in a court of law, and we see this through the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act 2017, whereby the Whanganui River is stated as a legal person.”
This unique characteristic of Aotearoa law recognises the Māori belief that humans are equal with everything including land and rivers.
Adrienne is working towards her doctorate in International Environmental Law, aiming to finish in 2022. She chose to use the example of the container ship MV Rena, which grounded on Otaiti (Astrolabe Reef) in the Bay of Plenty, as it was a major environmental disaster in New Zealand waters.
“The PhD is personal to me because I’m from Motiti Island which was impacted by the oil pollution and debris of the MV Rena. I was involved in the legal and cultural discussions at the time. It was this experience that inspired me to undertake research in Māori legal issues within the environment.”