The lawyer, teacher and activist was without equal. New Zealand is so much poorer for his passing, but so much richer for his life
It seems fitting that Wellingtonians woke to an eerie morning, mist clinging to the hills and harbour, as news broke that Moana Jackson, who spent so much of his life in Wellington’s Wainuiōmata, had died. The lawyer, teacher, activist, father and grandfather was the most articulate, original and forceful intellectual of his generation. He was, too, perhaps the humblest, and so flattery is ill-fitting on a man who gave so much without ever asking for anything in return. But the acknowledgment must stand: Moana Jackson was a rangatira (chief) of the highest rank and his contribution to New Zealand’s political and intellectual life are without equal.
That is not to imply, though, that his contributions came without a cost. In 1988, after publishing He Whaipaanga Hou, a landmark report establishing that the criminal justice system was racist, Matua Moana was the target of the very worst letter writers to the national newspapers and the most vicious callers to talkback radio. And yet he never took a back step. In the following decades he would argue again and again that the criminal justice system is racist, colonisation is responsible, and that the best means of restoring the mana of victims, offenders and the people who administer the system is tikanga.
The te reo Māori term “Matua” is a respectful form of address for a leader Continue reading...