Keegan Jones will spend some of his spare time offering law advice to whānau in need. Photo / Michael Cunningham
A young Whangārei lawyer with a passion for helping his iwi has created a free legal clinic alongside Ngāti Hine Health Trust and 155 Whare Āwhina.
Keegan Jones (Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Porou) studied a double degree in commerce and law at the University of Canterbury. He spent his university years as part of Te Pūtāiki (the Māori Law Students’ Association), eventually becoming president, alongside spending his final years as a tutor to first and second-year ākonga [students].
He also worked as an adviser for Te Puni Kōkiri/The Ministry of Māori Development before landing his job at WRMK lawyers, working in business law.
It was here that the 24-year-old discovered he still wanted to give something back to his community.
“I knew I wanted to work within kaupapa Māori,” he said, “and help in whatever way I could, but I didn’t know how best to achieve that.”
“I went okay, I’ve got the skills. I’ve studied for five years to get this degree – what am I actually doing to help people?”
Jones saw a significant gap in Te Tai Tokerau for informal legal help. He then liaised with the CEO of Ngāti Hine Health Trust and, at a hui, decided to go ahead with the initiative.
“They do an amazing job in terms of their social service providing,” Jones said.
The first clinic will be on March 1, 2023, with the launch taking place on February 28.
While the clinic will be available to the entire community, Jones said providing the clinics under the Ngāti Hine umbrella will achieve “greater outreach to whānau that need it most”.
He said the clinics will create a welcoming environment where questions can be answered and referrals can be made for those who are struggling to navigate the complex legal system.
“I just want to be a real person,” he said. “I don’t want to be someone that’s scary.”
He said a giving few hours a fortnight to help others is a no-brainer.
“I could be sitting down watching a show on Netflix, whereas I could literally have a life-changing hui or meeting with a family that could be a decider of whether or not they take the right legal course.”
Jones spent many of his childhood years in Northland, first living in Russell, before moving to the remote Karikari Peninsula in the Far North.
He said it was while living in the small community where “you have to know everyone” that he started to connect with his own whakapapa.
“When we went to a tangi or a pōwhiri, [my family and I] felt like it was part of us,” he said. “It felt like home.”
With parents in hospitality, Jones spent many of his younger years serving others, which is where much of his appreciation for helping and serving others grew.
“I want to do a service and a job that does that, because that’s when I feel most fulfilled,” he said.