An Auckland lawyer has today become the first District Court Judge with a moko kauae.
Ophir Cassidy was sworn in at a special sitting of the Manukau District Court at Te Kura Māori o Ngā Tapuwae, the school she once attended and later worked.
“It is a full circle, a real 360 but it feels like this is my place, it's like coming home,” she told 1 NEWS.
The former Te Kura Māori o Ngā Tapuwae student, teacher and deputy principal, now the first District Court Judge with a moko kauae.
She hopes her story will inspire the young students at the school.
“I want them to know if I can be up there today, getting sworn in as a District Court Judge of New Zealand, that could be them also,” Cassidy says.
Te Kura Māori o Ngā Tapuwae principal, Arihia Stirling says “it's another example that children in South Auckland can be whatever they want to be.”
Chief District Court Judge, Heemi Taumaunu agrees.
“It's very inspirational for them to understand, you are not defined by your circumstances.”
Cassidy will be serving at the Waitākere District Court as a Youth Court judge and will lead the Rangatahi Courts at Hoani Waititi and Ōrākei Maraes.
“When I first joined the district court bench in 2004, you could count the number of Māori judges in the district court on one hand. The number of Māori District Court Judges in now 32,” Taumaunu says.
Cassidy says she’s proud to serve.
“I love serving, it's something I've been bought up with in my whānau - taught to manaaki, look after people,” she says.