Denese Letitia Henare

Ngāti Hine, Ngā Puhi

1952 -

Denese Henare was born in Auckland and was educated at Mangere Bridge School, Orakei Primary School and Milford Primary School. She attended Westlake Girls’ High School from Denese was a student in the Auckland University Law School from 1970-1974 and graduated LLB in May 1974. She was admitted to the Bar as a Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand in December 1974. From 1972-1975 she worked in Common Law Section of Messrs Holmden Horrocks and Company for approximately two years in order to gain work experience in a legal office. From 1974-1975 she received a University grant to compile materials and case histories to form part of the Māori Land Law Course at Auckland University and was Research assistant to Mr J. A. B. O’Keefe, Senior Lecturer, Māori Land Law. From October 1975 to December 1976 she was appointed by the Crown to the Royal Commission on Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion. From 1977-1986, Denese worked as a Solicitor with Air New Zealand Limited and was sponsored by Air New Zealand Limited to read a Diploma in Air and Space Law in London from 1977-1978; as a result, she gained a Diploma in Air and Space Law from University College, London. During this period in London, she worked part-time for Beaumont & Son, a firm of Solicitors. In 1986 Denese became a Partner in Collinge Watt & Henare, Barristers and Solicitors, a position she held until 1990 when she commenced practice as a Sole Practitioner, Denese L Henare, Barrister and Solicitor in Auckland. She was awarded the New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal in recognition of services to New Zealand. She was part of the ministerial planning group for Ka Awatea: The Report of the Ministry of Māori Development of March, 1991. She was awarded Officer New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the Māori people in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 1997 and is at present appointed to the Law Commission as Law Commissioner for a term of three years from 1997.

Biographical sources

  • Phone conversation and correspondence with Denese Henare, July and 19 August 1998.


  • Royal Commission into Contraception, Sterilization and Abortion Report. Royal Commission, 1976.
  • Denese Henare was a member of this Royal Commission.
  • A Briefing on Māori and Economic Affairs. Conference Steering Committee for the Māori Economic and Development Summit Conference (Hui Taumata). [Palmerston North, N.Z.]: Dunmore, 1984.
  • Denese Henare was a member of the Conference Steering Committee that produced this.
  • Ministerial Review Committee Report on Department of Māori Affairs. By Denese Henare et al. Wellington, N.Z.: Board of Māori Affairs, 1985.
  • Independent Review Working Party Review of the Auckland, N.Z. Regional Council. Auckland, N.Z. Regional Council, July 1990.
  • Denese Henare was part of this working party of this review.
  • "Carrying the Burden of Arguing The Treaty." Vision Aotearoa: Kaupapa New Zealand. Ed. Witi Ihimaera. Wellington, N.Z.: Bridget Williams, 1993. 121-136. Rpt. in Te Ao Mārama: Contemporary Māori Writing. Comp. and ed. Witi Ihimaera. Contributing ed. Haare Williams, Irihapeti Ramsden and D. S. Long. Vol. 5: Te Torino: The Spiral. Auckland, N.Z.: Reed, 1996. 340-350.
  • Denese Henare talks with Rosalie Capper and Amy Brown about her work with Treaty claims.
  • The Constitutional Implications of MMP. Ed. Alan Simpson. [Wellington, N.Z.]: School of Political Science and International Relations, Victoria University of Wellington [Palmerston North, N.Z.]: Dunmore, 1998.
  • Henare offers commentary on the Treaty of Waitangi in this publication.
  • Papers/Presentations

  • Denese produced papers for the Economic Summit Conference in 1984 and the Hui Taumata also in 1984. The Government printer produced two volumes of the proceedings and conference papers from both these conferences.
  • "The Ka Awatea Report: Reflections on its Process and Vision." Justice & Identity: Antipodean Practices. Ed. Margaret Wilson and Anna Yeatman. Wellington, N.Z.: Allen & Unwin, 1995. 45-60.
  • Henare writes that despite various aspects of the Ka Awatea Report still waiting to be enacted, "the process of formulating the recommendations, and the vision underlying Ka Awatea remain relevant today." She adds: "in this essay I set out my reflections on that process and the continuing vision of the report. These reflections are placed in the context of the policy intentions of the National government of the time, and also of the developments and activities of the 1980s that surrounded the reassertion of Māori as a political force." She writes of the "ideological divide between government and Māori", the governmental recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi, resolution of Treaty claims, proposed solutions and Te Puni Kokiri.


  • Williams, A. "Woman with a Purpose." New Zealand Woman’s Weekly 21 Oct 1985: 6-7.
  • Young, C. "The Public Whirl of Denese Henare." Metro 6.59 (1986): 74-81.
  • Archie, Carol. "Denese Henare - Not Only Looking the Part." Mana Magazine 13 (1996): 62-67.
  • Brown, Amy. Mana Wahine - Women Who Show the Way. Ed. Amy Brown. Photographs by Jocelyn Carlin. Auckland, N.Z.: Reed, 1994.
  • Erai, Michelle, Fuli, Everdina, Irwin, Kathie and Wilcox, Lenaire. Māori Women An Annotated Bibliography. Wellington, N.Z.: Erai, Michelle, Fuli, Everdina, Irwin, Kathie and Wilcox, Lenaire. 1991. 40.