AUT fourth-year law student Te Puea Matoe has received a research scholarship from the newly launched Borrin Foundation to investigate how cultural information at sentencing can help improve outcomes for Maori in New Zealand’s criminal justice system.
The Borrin Foundation’s Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga Summer Legal Research Internship aims to promote Maori legal scholarship and nurture young researchers.
Matoe first became intrigued about cultural reports when she attended a conference last year.
After discussing it with AUT senior law lecturer Khylee Quince and learning more about it in class, Matoe says she was hopeful that cultural reports could be a tool to help improve outcomes for Māori in the criminal justice system.
“When I heard that Khylee was going to be doing research related to cultural information at sentencing, and that she might need an intern, I was so excited about the opportunity to apply and learn more about the topic,” she says.
Senior law lecturer Khylee Quince will supervise Matoe’s research.
Current provisions for cultural reporting are widely underutilised. Matoe hopes that more research in this area will help improve outcomes for Māori in the criminal justice system.
She says, “Under s27 of the Sentencing Act 2002, an individual may request a Court to hear a speaker on personal, family, whanau, community and cultural background. This may include the way in which that background may have related to the committing of the offence; any resolution attempts, issues relating to the offence, involving the offender and his or her whānau, community and the victim.
“Cultural speakers or reports assist the Court in dealing in a culturally appropriate fashion with, or gather information relevant to certain matters before the Court. This information may assist the Court in finding more appropriate sentences for some individuals.”
She says, “I hope to learn as much as I can, and use the information to further my goals to enhance support and opportunities for Māori.”
Matoe is also currently pursuing double degrees in law and Māori development.
She says, “I am interested in the ways I can assist my people to overcome obstacles, and how the law can be utilised as a tool to foster, support and encourage a better understanding of Te Aō Māori in Aōtearoa.
After graduation, Matoe intends to apply for an indigenous rights internship at the Permanent Mission of New Zealand to the United Nations in New York. Postgraduate studies are also on the cards.
Matoe hopes to focus on indigenous rights wherever her career takes her.
She says, “At present, the overrepresentation of Māori in the criminal justice system is something I am hugely passionate about. However, I am also interested in Māori environmental issues and the preservation and promotion of Māori culture and tikanga in all aspects of law.
“I look forward to a long and prosperous career supporting Māori through the law in as many ways as I might be able to.”
Borrin Foundation website
Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga Summer Legal Research Internship (Borrin Foundation website)