Rachael Harris

'UC provided me with opportunities that I would never have dreamed of...'

  • Rachael harris

(Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Pamoana)

Bachelor of Arts in Māori and Indigenous Studies with a minor in Geography and a Bachelor of Laws

Master of Laws

Judge’s Clerk, Christchurch District Court

‘Canterbury provided me with the sort of opportunities that I would never have dreamed of as a starry-eyed Year 13.’ Rachael has absolutely grasped every opportunity she can at UC, creating an impressive range of experiences within her Law studies.

Through her role as a research student at the Ngāi Tahu Research Centre, Rachael was granted a fellowship at Stanford University, USA, in the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. 'This exciting opportunity hugely broadened my horizons and allowed me to think critically about a whole range of issues affecting indigenous people outside New Zealand,' she says.

Shortly afterwards, Rachael was granted the tremendous opportunity to pursue an internship on Capitol Hill, Washington DC, in the office of Senator Max Baucus not long after the elections. 'UC Law is the only law school in the country to offer this outstanding opportunity,' she says.

She also got to return to Washington for the 2013 Pacific Partnership Forum as a Fulbright Future Partner.

One of her particular highlights while at UC, though, was participating in the University Challenge TV show revival in 2014, and being part of the winning team for UC against other New Zealand universities, an experience she's 'particularly proud of as a UC Alum'.

For her master's study, Rachael researched the development of co-governance agreements between iwi and the Crown, and their success in promoting the interests of their people.

'My research involved thinking biculturally about a lot of sensitive issues.' In particular, she focused on the governance agreement between Ngāi Tūhoe and the Crown that created legal personality for Te Urewera, which has become the first natural area in the world to be given its own legal identity.

'It's interesting from a constitutional perspective as well,' she says. 'In New Zealand, how will a whole new form of legal personality be interpreted?'

Her other interest was a unique co-management arrangement with Ngāi Tahu as a partner in the recovery process in Christchurch following the earthquakes, giving them equal standing with CERA (Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority) and other local authorities.

'Ngāi Tahu's role in the Christchurch rebuild is simply fascinating, as the iwi have a unique role to play in formulating the future of Christchurch.'

During study, Rachael also had a role as an Advisory Board member with the NZ-US Council, a non-governmental body set up to help develop the relationship between the two countries. Her role was to provide a youth perspective on the NZ-US relationship and the TransPacific Partnership Agreement, which is important 'due to the far-reaching, future nature of the agreement' in the Asia-Pacific region. After graduating, Rachael still maintains her interest in NZ-US relations and was a speaker at the 2015 Pacific Partnership Forum in Auckland. She is also a participant in the US Embassy's Tuākana Mentoring Programme.

Rachael was quick to land a role with the Christchurch District Court after completing her master's, where she works as a Judge's Clerk for judges in the criminal, civil and family law jurisdictions.

'Every day is different, and I am required to work under pressure, to tight deadlines,' she says. 'An average day could involve drafting a sentencing memo advising a judge how to sentence, writing a memo summarising and analysing submissions on evidence issues in a trial matter, or providing a bench brief for a complex and lengthy civil fixture. Following the end of my contract in late 2016, I aim to find a role in civil or criminal litigation.'

Rachael is keen to build on her successful track record so far, which she attributes to her extensive studies.

'UC provides a quality Law degree, and this in addition to my research-based LLM adequately provided me with the background to succeed in a busy research environment. It is also a valued degree amongst those in the profession.

'A Law degree provides you with high quality research and critical thinking skills that can be applied to any situation. I chose Law because I wished to pursue a degree that would prepare me for a challenging writing and research-based career.'

She agrees that there's no better place to have prepared than UC. 'The student lifestyle at UC is like no other. Canterbury offers a top-class Law school where the lecturers write the textbooks, and the engagement is exemplary.'

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