Michelle Howard-Sager promises to listen, be patient and treat people with respect as district court judge.
Whanganui District Court's biggest court room was packed as she was sworn in as a district court judge with a family warrant on Thursday.
The occasion began with a mihi whakatau, in which Whanganui iwi welcomed Howard-Sager into the role.
Principal District Court Judge Heemi Taumaunu said it was important in a democratic society to recognise the two founding cultures, a "reconciliation experience just by simply doing what we are doing today".
After the prayers, songs and hongi line, the chairs were re-arranged and judges put on robes for the swearing in, done in Māori and English.
Speakers talked about Howard-Sager's degrees in Māori studies and law, her tact, open-mindedness, diligence and patience.
Friend and colleague Philippa Nidd said she was kind and interested in people - both good qualities for a judge.
• Family Court system 'not fit for purpose' and needs urgent change, panel tells Justice Minister
• Standards push in Family Court
• New rules for Family Court less adversarial
• Let's talk law: Parenting Orders and how they work
Howard-Sager was admitted to the bar in 1997, and worked for Cameron Ross in Whanganui before becoming the senior Child, Youth and Family solicitor from 2004-12, and the Ministry of Social Development's lower North Island litigation manager.
She also had roles in the local and national Law Society, and served on school boards. Most recently, she and husband Gavan Sager spent two years in China.
She will take up her new role in the Northland town of Kaikohe, becoming its first resident judge.
It was fitting, as she had recently found she has Ngāpuhi ancestors as well as those from Whakatohea, Ireland, Scotland and England.
She was one of 12 new Family Court judges being appointed, Principal Family Court Judge Jacquelyn Moran said.
Many of the "sorely needed reinforcements" are women and speakers of te reo Māori.
In her own speech, Howard-Sager said she had learned to love the law and was proud to be a member of the Whanganui bar.
She and her husband had dedicated their lives to making a difference for disadvantaged children and young people.
She felt privileged to be made a judge, but also nervous about the new role.