Regional | Te Whatu Ora

Newly opened Far North legal clinic offering mental health support

A second location for free legal clinics has launched in Kerikeri and will be offering mental health support alongside legal aid.

Keegan Jones (Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Porou) is a lawyer based in Whangārei who established Aotearoa’s first legal clinic with Hihiaua Cultural Centre Trust and the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) earlier this year.

Jones said when he first started the clinics he didn’t think there would be a connection with the health sector.

“I just thought I can help with the legal issues and help them with what they need... The more people I see there’s a clear need for mental health support.

“The first clinic was with Ngāti Hine Health Trust and so it’s a little bit different. Both obviously health organisations but this is different in a way because we’re going to be in a different region essentially.”

The Kerikeri clinic will have health clinicians onsite provided by Te Whatu Ora as a support service for whānau who come in for their appointments.

He said partnering up with Te Whatu Ora will help to bridge the gap between mental health and legal support.

“I’ve noticed with our whānau... When they’re coming with their legal issue there’s more than just that legal complex issue.

“It goes beyond that and stems into that mental health space and what I find myself often doing is talking to whānau and taking about their issues. There’s more to that underlying issue or legal stuff they’ve got going on.”

Jones hopes to expand to more remote areas lacking resources.

He said the core values of the clinics were still centred on te ao Māori with staff who are predominantly Māori.

“My ultimate goal is to actually have a clinic in the likes of Kaikohe, Moerewa, Ōkaihau and Kaitāia - those are the communities which are really quite separated from the mainstream cities and those are the communities that get left behind. That’s where I want to provide these resources.”

“I’m always encouraging lawyers who are in those regions and in those pockets of communities to reach out to me,” Jones said.

The Kerikeri clinic will run fortnightly from 5-7pm with bookings to be made via its website or calling CAB Far North.