Pamela Ringwood

28 March 2014

Former Auckland Law School Senior Lecturer, Pam Ringwood, passed away peacefully on Wednesday 19 March 2014. Pam will be remembered fondly by her former colleagues at the Auckland Law School. "Pam was dynamic in and about the lecture theatres. She was totally devoted to her students' needs, and was tremendously missed when she retired” says former colleague Associate Professor Bernard Brown. “Pam was such a wonderful and wayward woman. Fiercely committed to the importance of family law and forever late with umpteen stories of van breakdowns, emergencies with her adopted children etc” remembers Professor David Williams.

As well as practising as a lawyer, Pam held a Bachelor of Arts, a Master of Laws and a Diploma in Social Sciences. She specialised in and wrote extensively about the law in relation to social services, the care of children, families, adoption, and human rights. In 1975 Pam applied to hold a joint appointment in Law and Sociology. “Though such appointments are unusual, I see no reason why they should not be successful” Dean J. F. Northey wrote at the time. “I think it might be most useful to have a trained lawyer teaching a social science. They are thought to be less exact than the law, though that assumption may not be justified” he commented at the time.

Pam undertook her work at the University of Auckland whole-heartedly and for many years also taught on the continuing education programme for adult students. She was also on an Auckland University committee for peace studies and research. In the Faculty of Law, Pam’s passion for teaching was evident in her Family Law, Advanced Family Law and Matrimonial Property classes, along with her many published articles in these areas. On her retirement, Dean Bruce Harris said “ The Faculty has specially appreciated the added dimension Pam has brought to the teaching of the Law School through the teaching of the theory and skills of negotiation and mediation.”

Pam was actively involved in assisting Nadja Tollemache with the ordering and editing of the Human Rights Commission’s Submission to the Bill of Rights Commission. On returning from the Commission, Graeme McCormick said in his address “that of the many submissions received (some many thousands) the Human Rights Submission was the best.”

“I recall that Pam, who had particular interests in family law, was the first single person in New Zealand to be approved to adopt an unrelated child. This overcame a longstanding departmental policy that only married couples should adopt children” says Associate Professor Ken Palmer.

In 1970, as a single woman, Pam adopted three Polynesian children: Sharon, Mia and David and immersed herself in Māori circles. “Changing 40 nappies a day is one hell of a way to prove a point” she mused to an Australian journalist covering the ground-breaking story. “I have always liked children and I had the facilities and the opportunities to offer them.”

“I recall one wonderful story from Pam when she moved into her new house - she had no stove, only a microwave, so she could not forget to turn anything off! The kids were her delight, and on many occasions, ours too” remembers Professor Jane Kelsey.

Her extensive involvement with community organisations as well as her background in the law, led to her appointment to the Waitangi Tribunal, where she served for many years. “Pam was thoroughly delighted to be appointed to the Waitangi Tribunal though totally honest that she knew little about the topics the Tribunal might inquire into. Her most notable contribution was to the hugely important Wai 262 inquiry” says Professor David Williams.

Pam was born and raised in Australia, and served on the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Australia in the early 1960s. She was asked by the Universal House of Justice, the supreme governing body of the Baha'i Faith, to move to New Zealand in 1967 to assist the fledgling community. She was one of the Baha’is community’s longest-serving, devoted members and became renowned as one of foremost and most capable public speakers for the Faith in New Zealand. Pam was a member of the Auckland Law School for almost 30 years until her retirement in 1997. She is survived by her three children.


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