Whanganui law graduate Tāwhiao McMaster is the first person to be admitted to the bar in a fully te reo Māori ceremony.
McMaster was recently admitted to the bar in the High Court at Hamilton and is now working in the climate change practice at Simpson Grierson, one of the country's biggest law firms.
"I deal with water matters, Māori matters and local government matters, as well as climate change," McMaster said.
"It's a massive, massive opportunity. You learn so much, and you work with lawyers who are the best in what they specialise in. I love it and it's a great environment to be in."
McMaster, with the support of his firm, became the first person in New Zealand to study to be admitted as a lawyer fully in te reo Māori. He studied at the College of Law NZ.
"It was a heck of a ride. The English legal language is hard enough as it is, but I can tell you, the te reo Māori legal language is a whole lot harder.
"People need to understand that you don't just have the option of doing te reo Māori at uni, now you have the option of doing it for your professional legal studies to become a lawyer and be admitted.
"You can become a fully immersed te reo Māori lawyer, from kohanga to kura to wharekura to university to studying for the bar."
McMaster said while he wasn't currently based in his home town, his journey towards a career in law began in Whanganui.
"I started off at Te Kohinga Aroha – Kohanga Reo, then I went to Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Tūpoho," McMaster said.
"After that I went to Rutherford Intermediate to improve my English, because I was fully immersed in te reo Māori up until then.
"I remember always asking questions to try and clarify what things meant, and I was always sent to detention for pestering staff. I got frustrated so many times, and I probably was pestering them with all my questions, but they classified me as a lost cause essentially.
"It actually made me think smarter about how I could interact, in terms of asking about English literacy and social sciences. I found it very useful when I got to boarding school [Te Aute College in Hawke's Bay], because that was a strongly disciplined environment that required you to be respectful all the time."
McMaster was at Te Aute College for five years, from 12 to 17, and he was dux in his final year. After spending a year working at the meatworks in Waitotara in 2014, he attended the University of Otago on a scholarship before transferring to the University of Waikato to finish his education.
At present he holds an LLB with majors in law and tikanga Māori, as well as a BA majoring in Māori and Pacific Development with a specialisation in creative writing.
"I was raised with a strong family, and I was around te ao Māori environment," McMaster said.
"They wanted me to be someone who would aspire to learn to be a servant for them eventually, and try and become some sort of community, family, iwi, hapu based person by going everywhere else and bringing as much as I could back home.
"Everyone back home planted these seeds in my mind, and when I went to Te Aute they pretty much became clarified.
"I was made aware of what it is to be a lawyer, and now that I am one I can 'yep, this is the type of person I've always wanted to be'."
McMaster said a quote that always stuck with him was from constitutional lawyer Moana Jackson, who visited Te Aute College while he was boarding there.
"He said 'when you're becoming a lawyer, you should always ask yourself one question. Are you a lawyer who is Māori, or are you a Māori lawyer?'
"I'm taking that proposition into my own life actions and seeing how I am, and what it means to be a servant to the law, my people and all of Aotearoa. We all need to benefit and work together."
Doing his admission to the bar in te reo Māori was "like a full circle", McMaster said.
"When everything is in te reo Māori you're just like 'āe, tau kē' [yes, awesome], everything feels so settled and at peace.
"Everyone that has passed away that was involved in your life, and everyone that's supported you who is still alive, you're taking a bit of them into that courthouse and you're fulfilling your next step.
"You feel so supported, but you also feel the pressure. You need to be able to deal with that and thrive on it.
"I wouldn't be where I am if it wasn't for my family and Whanganui community. The iwi and hapū that supported me from home are who I owe my position to."