Moana Schwalger Memorial Pasifika Scholarship Winner

28 March 2014
Tupou 'Atiola LAWPasifikaSchol pic
Elynn Tupou Ta’anea ‘Atiola

Tongan law student Elynn Tupou Ta’anea ‘Atiola has been awarded the University of Auckland Moana Schwalger Memorial Pasifika Scholarship.

The $10,000 scholarship was established by the law firm Meredith Connell together with the Pacific Lawyers’ Association to encourage postgraduate study by Pasifika students at the University’s Faculty of Law.

Moana Schwalger was a highly regarded Pasifika lawyer, a member of the Executive of the Pacific Lawyers’ Association and a colleague and friend of the partners and staff at Meredith Connell. She lost her 18 month battle with cancer in July 2012 at the age of 35.

“I am humbled, honoured and very grateful for the scholarship,” says Tupou, who was born in New Zealand, raised in Tonga and is the eldest of seven children. She intends to continue her studies into land law and work in both New Zealand and Tonga in the future.

“Although I was born in New Zealand, I was raised in Tonga because of my parents’ role in the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga. Both parents are secondary school teachers; my father teaches maths and physics and he is also a church minister; and my mother teaches English and history.

Her home island of Ha’apai was small, so the only professions she had contact with as a child other than her parents’, were the clergy, the police, doctors and nurses.

“With such limited exposure, I had always envisaged following my parents’ footsteps to make a career in the teaching profession,” she says.

She did her primary schooling in Ha’apai then continued on to Tongatapu for secondary school where she studied at Queen Salote College, and then to Tupou Tertiary Institute (TTI) where she completed an NZ Diploma in Business (Accounting) in June 2006.

In 2006, she moved to New Zealand and lived in Wellington to attend Victoria University and graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce and Administration majoring in Accounting and Commercial Law in December 2008. She also completed a Graduate Diploma in Professional Accountancy at the same time.

After graduation, Tupou went back to Tonga and taught for a year at Tupou High School, teaching Accounting and History for Form 5 and 6 students. She also tutored ‘Introduction to Commercial Law’ for the NZ Diploma in Business students at TTI.

“I wanted to further my studies, but I didn’t have a clear goal in mind. Being an accountant was the obvious option for me as I felt more comfortable working with numbers than words,” she says.

One of her younger sisters was already studying health science at the University of Auckland and their parents wanted them to live together in Auckland, so she applied to different study programmes at the University and was first accepted into the Bachelor of Laws programme.

“When I made it into Part II, I was still not sure whether law was the right career to pursue, but after studying Land Law and South Pacific Legal Studies in my third year, I became more interested in the law and its application”, she says.

“I grew up in Tonga, but I had never heard about the land laws there, so I became very interested in this totally different type of land system.”

The following summer, Tupou went back to Tonga and obtained an internship at the Ministry of Lands, where she again worked this last summer. “I’m hoping one day I’ll be able to go back home and work there,” she says.

Tupou applied to do post graduate study because she wanted to further her understanding and knowledge in the area of commercial, land and property law in New Zealand and also in Tonga. This year she is doing a one year LLM by course work, including a public law course that covers land law.

“I hope to practice law next year when I finish with my studies and to help make a difference here in New Zealand and also back at home,” she says.



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