Growing up in an economically disadvantaged patch of Northland only served to fuel Angeline Nielsen's determination to study law and help Maori get better representation in court.

The 40-year-old grandmother proved age was no barrier to achieving your goal in life when she and Jade Newton were admitted to the bar in the High Court at Whangarei last week.

Both practise law in Auckland but chose to be admitted in Northland where Ms Nielsen was brought up and where Ms Newton's father hails from.

The former said the older she got, the more life experience she gained, the more her passion for law had grown.


"People still don't know their rights and I wanted to become their advocate and teach them things like rights to Maori land and access to the justice system.

"We don't do law degrees for ourselves but to help our people and my plan is to come and work in Northland after three years when I'll be able to practise as a barrister."

She currently practises family law in Orewa.

Ms Nielsen has four children and three grandchildren and said she wanted her children to follow her in law.

The former Okaihau College student said she had witnessed scourges such as drugs, alcohol and violence while growing up and through her legal education she wanted to help Maori secure meaningful lives.

Ms Newton, 24, is keen to see her hapu and iwi secure their rights under the criminal justice system.

"I work as a criminal defence junior lawyer in Manukau and I think there's a need for more Maori lawyers to deal with Maori because the criminal justice system is hard to navigate," she said.

Although she currently practices criminal law, she has always been interested in post settlement and environment governance and issues concerning Maori rights.

Justice Christian Whata, who presided over the admission ceremony, said it was good to see Maori women coming through law schools and urged them to carry out their duties with integrity and honesty.

"You now occupy a privileged and a special place in our society," he said. "You have to genuinely care about your clients. If you do that, they will genuinely reward your loyalty."