High-achieving partners share law success

22 September 2011

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From left: Valmaine Toki, Kiri Toki, Kingi Snelgar

Law lecturer Valmaine Toki (Ngāti Wai, Ngati Rehua, Ngā Puhi) had double cause for family pride at Spring Graduation.

Not only was her daughter Kiri Toki (Ngāti Wai, Ngā Puhi) capped but also Kiri’s partner Kingi Snelgar (Ngā Puhi, Whakatohea, Te Arawa) — both with a conjoint BA/LLB(Hons).

Each came to University holding a 28th Māori Battalion Ngarimu VC Scholarship. As well as majoring together in Political Studies for their Arts degree the pair took the same elective papers in Law.

Although they had already met the shared experience undoubtedly strengthened the bond between them. “Their approach and study methods were very different but complementary,” says Valmaine.

She is proud of how Kiri coped with the Law School’s “competitive and challenging” environment. “To complete with a BA/LLB (Hons) is a testament not only to her strength of character but also her academic aptitude and courage.”

In addition to helping Kiri and Kingi financially the scholarship “grounded them in tikanga and Te Ao Māori”.

The korowai (feather cloak) worn by Kiri is the same korowai which Valmaine and her colleague Dr Nin Tomas used at their graduations. Kingi's korowai was specially handmade for him by his mother Eliza. “Both are special korowai for occasions of celebration and great accomplishment.”

The new graduates’ academic ambition is far from fulfilled and extends abroad. “In time they plan to apply for postgraduate scholarships to continue their studies in law overseas,” says Valmaine. “Then they will return home and assist iwi Māori.”

For now Kiri, who will be admitted to the Bar in November, is working for Simpson Grierson. Kingi, a solicitor at Meredith Connell, is already appearing in court and doing some trial work.

Valmaine has at least one further family graduation at Auckland in prospect with her son Tama, former head boy at Auckland Grammar School and a Russell McVeagh Scholar, now in his third year of a BA/LLB conjoint degree.