University of Auckland: Indigenous leaders to speak on constitutional change

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Radical change is needed to address fundamental shortcomings in Aotearoa’s constitutional structure and to realise Māori rights and aspirations, says legal academic Dr Claire Charters (Ngāti Whakaue, Tūwharetoa, Ngāpuhi, Tainui).

However, two questions remain: What would a te Tiriti-based constitution look like, and how do we realise it?

To consider these questions and generate transformative, practical and robust options for constitutional transformation in New Zealand, Dr Charters is bringing international thought-leaders, Indigenous peoples from around the world, and Aotearoa-based experts together to take part in the 2022 Constitutional Kōrero at the University of Auckland.

“The wānanga will provide an opportunity to learn about how Indigenous peoples in other countries are reflected in constitutions and what lessons they might provide for constitutional transformation here in Aotearoa.”

When it comes to constitutional change, Charters says there are many examples to look to, including the self-determination of American Indians, modern treaties in Canada, jurisdictional authority in Latin America, Indigenous parliaments in Sámi territories in Scandinavia, and consent requirements in Philippine law.

There is a growing awareness of the fragile foundations underpinning our constitution, in particular the illegitimate means by which sovereignty was asserted over Aotearoa and the ongoing effects of colonisation.
Dr Claire Charters
Faculty of Law
Keynote speakers at the Constitutional Kōrero include Indigenous rights activist Elisa Loncon Antileo, who belongs to the Mapuche people in Chile, distinguished professor S. James Anaya who participated in the drafting of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and Dr Ramy Bulan, an indigenous Kelabit researcher and activist from Borneo, whose work has centred on creating awareness on Indigenous peoples’ legal issues in Malaysia.

Charters says the conference will give attendees opportunities to engage with legal and academic experts and to hear options for constitutional transformation to realise Māori rights within te Tiriti o Waitangi, He Whakaputanga and the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“There is a growing awareness of the fragile foundations underpinning our Constitution, in particular the illegitimate means by which sovereignty was asserted over Aotearoa and the ongoing effects of colonisation,” says Charters, who is part of the steering group working to produce a draft national plan to realise the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

“We need to keep working together to find a way forward.”

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