Indigenous | University of Otago

Jacinta Ruru awarded international honorary degree

Professa Jacinta Ruru. Photo / Supplied by University of Otago

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Otago has been recognised for her contribution to decolonising Aotearoa’s research sector and legal education.

Distinguished Professor Jacinta Ruru (Raukawa, Ngāti Ranginui) received an Honorary Doctor of Laws from Newcastle University in the UK on Tuesday this week.

The degree acknowledges Ruru’s work on Indigenous people’s rights and Indigenous law especially concerning land and water management and the legal personality of the environment.

“I’ve always strived to be brave in all I do, to see the possibilities for how our legal system and structures can provide justice and restitution for Indigenous peoples,” Ruru said.

“With courage, we have the ability to create modern laws that are respectful and empowering of the first Indigenous laws of the lands and waters where we now live. It is remarkable to be receiving this honour from an English university.”

Ruru said she was moved by the recognition of her mahi, as were her whānau and close colleagues.

Chris Day, Vice-Chancellor and President Professor of Newcastle University, said it was a great pleasure to welcome Ruru, a dedicated and distinguished figure in the University community.

University of Otago Vice-Chancellor Grant Robertson said the honorary degree shows the depth of Professor Ruru’s commitment to Indigenous law and further international recognition of Professor Ruru’s leadership qualities.

“She has been a trailblazer in Aotearoa New Zealand for many years, so it is fantastic to see her being recognised internationally.”

Ruru joined Otago’s Faculty of Law in 1999, was New Zealand’s first Māori Professor of Law, and was one of the first wahine Māori to be recognised as a Fellow of the Royal Society Te Apārangi.

She is a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Māori and the law, and in 2016 received the Prime Minister’s Supreme Award for Tertiary Teaching.

Professor Ruru was also named this week in the PIE (Professionals in International Education) 50 Voices of 2024.

Faculty of Law Dean Professor Shelley Griffiths says for the 20 years Professor Ruru has worked at the University and in the Faculty of Law these issues have been at the heart of her research and her teaching.

“This is amazing recognition from a university which is physically about as far from Ōtākou Whakaihu Waka as it is possible to be. Her colleagues in the Faculty of Law warmly congratulate her on this honour.”