Parents’ cultures helped shape new judge’s view

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Judge Melinda Broek (left) is sworn in by Judge Jacquelyn Moran during a special sitting of the Dunedin District Court last week. PHOTO: Gregor Richardson

Parents who were “fierce” advocates of their culture helped shape one of New Zealand’s newest district court judges.

Former Mataura woman Melinda Broek was sworn in as a judge in Dunedin last week.

She will take up a position in Rotorua.

Judge Broek, who is of Ngai Tai descent, said she was fortunate to grow up in a home where her mother Lani’s (Frankie) Maori culture and father Jan’s Dutch culture were equally valued.

“Each one was a fierce advocate of their own culture and the values,” she said.

“Quite unique for Mataura.”

Her father believed every culture was important.

“I was brought up to respect all cultures and grew up with the mindset you can learn something from every culture and each culture is to be embraced and respected.

“That was something my dad was very strong on.”

The home was a potpourri of cultural experiences as her father could speak four languages, including Maori, and enjoyed music from different cultures, and her mother was interested in Polynesian culture.

Her family background had prepared her well for a career in law.

Her mother had been involved with the Mataura Maori Club and she herself had taken part in kapa haka.

Her father was also a supporter of the club.

Growing up in Mataura helped her become a “well-grounded” individual.

“Everybody knew each other . You had to get on with everybody.”

While she had played representative netball for Eastern Southland, softball was her preferred sport.

“I was stronger at softball and that was more my passion.

“I played for Southland and Otago.”

As an 11-year-old she travelled to the Netherlands to visit her father’s family.

“My older cousin was studying law and I think that is where I got the idea from.”

Judge Broek, a University of Otago graduate who started her career in Invercargill followed by stints in England, has specialised in family law since becoming a barrister sole in 2013.

It was a “privilege” to be appointed as a judge, she said.

“Being vested with the ability to make decisions about other people’s lives is a huge responsibility and one I will never take lightly.”