Indigenous Perspectives on SOM – New Zealand

Robert McGowan

Amo Aratu (Senior Technical Specialist), Te Papa Atawhai (New Zealand Department of Conservation)

On March 20th 2017 the New Zealand parliament passed the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Bill which established the Whanganui River as a legal “person” with all of the rights, powers, duties, and liabilities of the same. The Act endorses and illustrates how Māori perceive their relationship to the natural world. The passing of the Act challenged the River people to restore their ancestral river to good health. Changes in land use beginning in the later part of the 19th century had seen soil fertility decline, water quality deteriorate and the soils that sustained life in its catchment increasingly washed out to sea. These impacts profoundly changed the lifestyles of the people that belonged to it.  Describing the issues facing the River Iwi (tribes) and their response to them will help illustrate traditional understandings relating to the River, the Whenua (the land) and the life sustain capacity of the soil. It also serves to demonstrate the relevance of traditional knowledge to addressing the current ecological crisis.

This presentation will focus on key concepts from Māori understandings of the natural world that relate to the primary themes of this conference and suggest how they can contribute toward deepening and broadening our knowledge of soils and what needs to be done to sustain them. In particular the concept of “Mauri” will be explored and how that relates to the capacity of soils to support the life that belongs there. Māori and many traditional peoples regard the whole landscape as essentially interdependent and that the wellness of any part of it, be it soils, vegetation, water quality, etc., can only be understood within the context of the whole network of connections that sustain life. The challenge for researchers, from an indigenous perspective, is to be mindful of the “whole” while focusing on the areas of their particular expertise.


Rob McGowan is an Amo Aratu (Senior Technical Specialist) for the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) and a key advisor for a Government programme that administers funding for the protection of indigenous ecosystems on Māori land. His work has a strong focus on building bridges between Western Science and Matauranga Māori (traditional Māori knowledge). In 2018 Rob was awarded the Loder Cup for outstanding work in incorporating Matauranga Māori into conservation management. Rob is one of the foremost authorities on rongoā Māori (traditional Māori medicine) and is well respected nationally for his work with and for the restoration of rongoā Māori practice in New Zealand. He has been involved for more than 20 years in teaching, researching and assisting Māori to re-engage in traditional uses of NZ native plants, particularly for medicine (rongoā Māori).  Rob is a regular presenter on Māori Television’s “Kiwi Maara & Maara Kai programs sharing his vast knowledge on rongoā Māori with the New Zealand public.  He is author of “Rongoā Māori – a practical guide to traditional Māori Medicine” (2009).

Ms Kate Austin


Kate specialises in commercial dispute resolution and litigation, particularly in the banking and finance and industrials sectors. She has acted for clients in a range of complex large scale disputes and regulatory investigations and has particular expertise in the legal, strategic  and reputational issues involved in the defence of class actions under the Australian class action regimes.

Kate is a leading member of the multi-disciplinary Allens Arrow team which works to deliver time and cost savings and forensic benefits through the use of advanced legal technologies in litigation and regulatory investigations. She is also part of a team working to foster innovation at Allens not only in technological developments, but in new ways of working and addressing disruption.

Judge Dina Yehia

Current Position:  Judge of the NSW District Court

 86 Goulburn Street, Sydney.

PO Box K106 Haymarket 1240



 1) Arts – Law UNSW (graduated 1089)

 2) Masters in International Law: Sydney University (graduated 2012 )

Judge Yehia SC was admitted as a solicitor in 1989. Her first position as a solicitor was with the Western Aboriginal Legal Service from 1990 until 1996. In that capacity she represented thousands of Aboriginal people in the Local, District and Supreme Court.  She was based in Dubbo but appeared in courts throughout north-western NSW including Bourke, Brewarrina Wilcannia and Broken Hill.

Her Honour was also the solicitor appearing on behalf of the Boney family in the hearings before the Royal Commision Into Aboriginal Deaths In Custody. In her time in Western New South Wales she was regularly involved with community initiatives concerned with reducing the incarceration rate of indigenous people.

Upon her return to Sydney her Honour worked as the Solicitor Advocate with the Legal Aid Commission. She went to the Bar in 2001 and was appointed as a Public Defender. She appeared in the year-long terrorism trial and in numerous Supreme Court murder trials. Her Honour took silk in 2009 and was appointed the first female Deputy Senior Public Defender in 2013.

Her Honour continued to appear on behalf of Aboriginal people in various jurisdictions including in the High Court in the case of Bugmy  v The Queen in 2013. She argued that the High Court should endorse an approach to sentencing indigenous offenders similar to that approved by the Canadian Supreme Court, namely recognising the unique systemic factors caused by a history of dispossession and colonisation and how that history has led to the socio economic disadvantages impacting on some communities today.

Her Honour took silk in 2009 and was the first woman to be appointed Deputy Senior Public Defender in 2011.

Her Honour was appointed a Judge of the NSW District Court in May 2014.

She is the Chairperson of the Walama Court Working Group. The Working Party has submitted a proposal to the NSW Government calling for the Walama Court to be established as a Division of the NSW District Court.

Mr Greg Williams

Greg Williams is internationally recognised as an experienced litigation lawyer with particular expertise in the conduct of class actions.  He has over 20 years’ experience undertaking product liability and class action litigation with experience ranging from acting in large-scale class actions for the banking, pharmaceutical and automotive industry  He has assisted clients in the financial services and retail sectors to establish bespoke consumer remediation and compensation programs.

He is a member of the International Association of Defense Counsel and the Defense Research Institute.  Greg was voted by his peers as one of Australia’s Best Lawyers in Litigation, Product Liability Litigation and Class Action Litigation (2018).  He is listed in Who’s Who Legal’s Product Liability Defence Lawyers and Life Sciences, Regulatory Lawyers and has been recognised by Who’s Who Legal as a 2018 thought leader for Life Sciences.

Justice Bob Gotterson AO


Justice Bob Gotterson AO was appointed to the Queensland Court of Appeal in April 2012. He is currently President of the AIJA. He is a former President of the Law Council of Australia, the Australian Bar Association and the Bar Association of Queensland.

The Hon Chief Justice Susan Kiefel AC LLM (Cantab)


Chief Justice Susan Kiefel was born in Cairns, Queensland, Australia, in 1954, educated in Queensland and at the University of Cambridge where she received a Masters of Law.  Chief Justice Kiefel was admitted to the Queensland Bar in 1975 and was the first woman in Queensland to be appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1987.  Whist practising at the Bar, her Honour was a part-time Hearing Commissioner of the Commonwealth Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission.

She was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland in 1993 and was appointed to the Federal Court in 1994.

From 2003-2007, whilst a Federal Court Judge, her Honour was a part-time Commissioner at the Australian Law Reform Commission.  She also held a commission as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Norfolk Island from 2004.

Her Honour was appointed a Justice of the High Court on 3 September 2007 and was appointed the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia on 31 January 2017.

She was appointed a Companion in the General Division of the Order of Australia in 2011 and in June 2013 was elected a titular member of the International Academy of Comparative Law.  Her Honour was elected an Honorary Bencher of the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn in November 2014.

Magistrate Kate Hawkins

Magistrate Kate Hawkins was appointed to the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria in 2001.

Since July 2011 Magistrate Hawkins has been the Co-Supervising Magistrate for Family Violence and Family Law, together with Deputy Chief Magistrate Felicity Broughton. She provides judicial leadership of the Court’s implementation of the broad ranging recommendations made by the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence. This includes rolling out specialist family violence courts statewide across Victoria.

In 2016 she facilitated a roundtable dedicated to reducing the risk to families affected by family violence navigating the court system at the COAG National Summit in Brisbane.

Prior to appointment Magistrate Hawkins practiced as a solicitor and was a partner at a major Melbourne law firm.

Adrian Cartland

Adrian Cartland, the 2017 Young Lawyer of the Year, has worked as a tax lawyer in top tier law firms as well as boutique tax practices. He is now the Principal of Cartland Law, a boutique tax and commercial law firm. Adrian is also the Creator of Ailira, the Artificially Intelligent Legal Information Research Assistant, which automates legal research and advice. Ailira has enabled non-professionals to pass University Tax Law exams and is currently used by hundreds of Australian tax lawyers and accountants for tax research and to unlock internal intellectual property. Ailira can also provide tailored legal information to consumers, initially in the areas of Domestic Violence (for which Cartland Law has already delivered a SA Government funded prototype), Business Structuring, and Wills and Estates. Ailira has powered the world’s first Law Firm Without Lawyers. Adrian is known for his innovative advice and ideas and also for his entertaining and insightful professional speeches.

Professor Kathy Laster

Kathy Laster is the Director of the Sir Zelman Cowen Centre.

Prior to taking up this appointment in 2015, Kathy served as an Associate Professor at Monash University’s School of Law, following a lengthy career in academia and industry. Her appointments have included serving as CEO of the Institute of Public Administration of Australia (IPAA), Executive Director of the Law Foundation of Victoria, Associate Professor of Law at La Trobe University and in a range of secondments to government. Kathy is a distinguished academic, widely published in a range of areas. Her interests include legal education, legal reasoning, access to justice and the development of education for the judiciary.

The Rt Hon Dame Sian Elias

The Right Honourable Dame Elias is the 12th Chief Justice of New Zealand and the first woman to be appointed to that office.  She graduated from Auckland University with an LLB Honours Degree in 1970 and was admitted to the New Zealand Bar the same year. She studied at Stanford University, from which she graduated in 1972 with a Master’s Degree in Law.  Following her return to New Zealand, Dame Sian worked first as a solicitor and then as a barrister in Auckland.  In 1984-1989 she was a member of the Law Commission working particularly on the reform of company law.

In 1988, Dame Sian was appointed a Queen’s Counsel.  She appeared in a number of significant cases, including cases concerning the Treaty of Waitangi. She was awarded a Commemorative Medal in 1990 in recognition of services to the legal profession.

In 1995, Dame Sian was appointed Judge of the High Court in Auckland.  On 17 May 1999, she was appointed Chief Justice of New Zealand and was made a Dame Grand Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. The Chief Justice was appointed a Privy Councillor in 1999 and first sat on the Privy Council in 2001.

When in 2003 the Supreme Court Act established a final Court of Appeal in New Zealand, the Chief Justice became the head of the new Supreme Court.  That court began sitting in July 2004.


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