Pacific Law students in the news



Law Student Ruby Grubb stars in NZ film "BROKEN"

Ruby Grubb

Fifth year law student Ruby Grubb stars in the 2018 feature film Broken (dir. Tarry Mortlock), released earlier this month across New Zealand cinemas. Broken follows ex gang leader Logan (Josh Calles), who has ditched gang life to raise his daughter, Tori (Ruby Grubb). When she is murdered by a rival gang, Logan is forced to choose between vengeance – and all-out gang warfare – or forgiveness. The Gisborne-shot drama marks the first feature directed by pastor Tarry Mortlock. It is a modern interpretation of a true story about a girl killed by a raiding party in the 1800s. Broken is presented by City Impact Church, although Mortlock says he "never set out to make a Christian movie for Christians".

“About two years ago, I was given the opportunity to jump head first into the deep. I was invited to audition for the role of ‘Tori’ in a NZ first-film ‘Broken’, inspired by the true gents of ‘Tarore’. Although this was initially something I never saw myself doing, I seized the opportunity and gave it my best shot. I must have done something right, because I landed the role and would soon be setting out for four weeks filming in Gisborne. The filming period coincided with Law School and application season, but thankfully due to a very understanding crew and helpful friends with notes, I was successfully able to juggle both. During this time, I not only grew so much personally in confidence and appreciation of Maori culture, but I was so blessed to have learnt from and laughed with so many talented people from various walks of life. This film brought together people of different ethnicities (Maori, Samoan, Tongan, New Zealand), backgrounds (ex-gangsters, police and law students) and beliefs (Christians and other). We came together for the common purpose of sharing a New Zealand story about forgiveness. We have been absolutely blown away by the success of our humble Kiwi film. This is testament to hard Kiwi labour and Gods grace. We are so grateful to everyone who has supported ‘Broken’ so far.”

Broken has received strong reviews and is now showing across select cinemas in New Zealand.


Asena Tolungamaka

Asena Tolungamaka
Asena Tolungamaka & Auckland's Mayor Phil Goff

In the summer of 2017, Asena worked as a People and Capabilities Intern for Auckland Council. This is her experience working with Auckland’s mayor, Phil Gof.

fAs part of my internship at the Auckland Council, it’s encouraged that interns shadow someone to gain an insight into what they do and the role that they possess in the biggest council in Australasia. I’ve been lucky enough to shadow some great people, from Councillor Efeso Collins to Stephen Davies, the Head of Strategy and Partnership in the People & Capability Department. Last Friday, I shadowed Phil Goff and the mayoral office. Going in, I wanted to see how he was transitioning into this new role and hopefully learn a few things from a mayor with an abundance of experience.

What are some things I learnt?

  1. Always carry an umbrella, or something you can use as a makeshift umbrella. It might be summer according to the seasons but on occasion Auckland’s weather tends to surprise us with some thunderous rain - just for fun. The professional image that you were serving when you left home might be replaced with a slightly frazzled and drenched one.
  2. Being the mayor of Auckland is no easy task but it’s definitely worthwhile. The meetings that I could sit in on showcased the diverse range of initiatives, projects and communities that the mayor is involved in. I truly appreciated the multicultural masterpiece that is Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) when I saw the mayor sit down with different members of this masterpiece and discuss how his work could include and help them express their wonderful cultures and breathtaking customs.
  3. Behind every great leader is a great team. The mayoral office is filled with lovely people who welcomed me with warm smiles and friendly faces. I spent time getting to know most of them and was amazed to hear that some of them had worked with the mayor for years. One stand out colleague had known Phil Goff since their university days. Learning that reminded me of something that I’ve been told on many occasions. If ‘you show me your friends, I’ll show you your future’.

Despite everything I learnt on that Friday many moons ago (...3 to be exact), there’s one thing that will always stick with me. Politicians, mayors, celebrities and other notable people in today’s popular culture framework are sometimes perceived as being larger than life. Most of the time, they’re revered. Sometimes, they’re disliked. And because of this, it leaves them open to criticism. A lot of criticism. But my day with the mayor made me realise that they’re just human. Phil’s a man who gets to work at 7AM, does more than the 8 hours that workers tend to put in, and orders hot chocolate with the intern that’s shadowing him because she doesn’t like coffee. He also enjoys the hot chocolate more than she does which makes her feel 10 times more comfortable than when she had first arrived slightly frazzled and drenched.

Auckland’s lucky to have him.


Wilber Tupua selected to attend two international conferences

Wilbur Tupua
Wilber Tupua at the UNESCO Conference in China with Piakura Passfield
Wilber in Colombia
Wilber at the One Young World Summit, Colombia

In 2017, Wilber Tupua (BA/LLB majoring in Politics and International Relations) and PILSA’s male co-president was selected as a One Young World Ambassador attending two international conferences. In September, Wilber represented New Zealand and the Pacific to the UNESCO forum in China. In October, he represented his home country, Samoa, at the One Young World Summit in Colombia. There he got the opportunity to engage with global leaders, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to find solutions combatting the issues affecting youth around the world. Wilber spoke to Helena Kaho about his experiences at the UNESCO forum in China.

After the Security Council adopted Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security, the National Commission for the People’s Republic of China for UNESCO wanted to engage the youth in a regional dialogue. The objective was to engage the youths with representatives of their respective countries in an intensive consultation process. The aim was to find ways to effectively implement the resolution, from a youth perspective.

The forum brought together over 100 youth delegates from around the Asia-Pacific region, to share their experiences, to learn from one another and to debate a development framework that will involve youth and governments together in the implementation of the resolution. The conference was structured around small, facilitated workshops and debate to allow delegates to enter into practical discussions.The objectives of the Asia Pacific Youth Dialogue were to raise awareness about the importance of Asian and Pacific civilizations and cultures to promoting peace, respect for diversity, and social cohesion, as well as to identify actions which may be undertaken at the national and regional levels to promote youth full engagement in promoting peaceful coexistence and sustainable development. The forum also addressed the issue of climate injustice and how it is affecting some Pacific Island nations.

The recommendations were targeted at national governments, international & regional bodies, and civil society and will be presented to the Security Council for approval before it is implemented. Four out of twenty recommendations came from the three representatives from the Pacific. These recommendations pertain to climate change, youth social development, combating extremism and gender based violence. Our Pacific delegation included Cook Islands (Piakura Passfield), Tonga (Xavier Muller) and Samoa (myself as the representative), and all three of us are current undergraduate law students at Auckland University. I credit the calibre of teaching here at Auckland Law School, because it adequately prepared us with the knowledge and the requisite skills to debate and negotiate at the international level with people that were foreign representatives of states.

I received the opportunity to not only represent my country, but the institution that I come from. For that I’m incredibly proud to be a student at Auckland Law School and the support that I receive as a Pasifika student.


Akatu John Law Samoa Conference

Akatu John (grad. 2013) talked with Helena Kaho about her experiences attending the Samoan Law Conference along with 10 other Pacific law students.

What would you tell other students about attending conferences?

Conferences are a great opportunity to network with like-minded individuals and legal academics in areas of law that you are interested in or passionate about. They can also be a source of support and motivation. In the first conference I attended I met postgraduate students and advisors who were so inspirational and so encouraging, and they made me realise that continuing onto postgraduate studies could be a reality and not just a dream.

What made you want to attend the Samoa conference?

My postgraduate research has largely been based around Pacific Island legal issues. As a Pacific Islander and having the passion to help my people, it is my responsibility and privilege to research those issues. I wanted to attend the Samoa Conference because the topics were directly relevant to my research interests. I was also attracted to this particular conference because it was a Joint Law Association conference, and I knew the presentations would be academia put into practice. The fact that it was on a tropical island in the middle of the New Zealand winter was a definite bonus.

Best thing about the conference?

The best thing about the conference was the caliber of those who presented but also the legal discussion that took place in question and answer time. In attendance at the Conference was the Samoan Head of State, the Chief Justice of Samoa, other Justices of Samoa sitting in their highest appellate Court, Judges in the District Courts of New Zealand and notable Pacific Island academics and practitioners. To be amongst the legal discussion was an absolute privilege. I learnt more from that 3 day Conference than I could have from reading any of those speeches online. The mana, the comraderie and the understanding between the different cultures on pressing legal issues is something words cannot express. You had to be there.

Any challenges?

We were a small delegation and a lot of the attendees knew each other. This was challenging at first, trying to figure out what our place was at the Conference. However, that quickly faded as we met more people. Some people may find it challenging to do, but at Conferences you need to be open to meeting new people. I have met people throughout the different conferences I have attended who have helped me on my academic and career paths.

What is one thing you took away from the conference?

Judge Malosi was one of the last presenters at the Conference. She spoke about her experiences in helping to set up the Family violence court in Samoa. She issued each of us in attendance with a challenge. She said, "Don't let this conference be just another Conference". From this I took away a sense of responsibility to do more for my people, to research more, to establish a firm foundation in my values and beliefs as a Pacific Islander. I came away from the Samoa Conference with more purpose.

Future plans?

I am determined to do more. I am motivated to research more. I am looking to undertake a supervised research paper for my last paper to complete complete my Master of Laws in the first semester of 2017. I am also looking to practice law in the near future. I have goals that are yet to be achieved but with my newfound purpose, at least now I know they are achievable.


Talapo Uiva’a

Talapo Uivaa
Talapo Uiva'a

Internship – Private Equity Division, VinaCapital Vietnam. Currently working at the NZ Super Fund as the only graduate and youngest analyst.

Talapo Uiva’a (graduated 2017) studied law and commerce majoring in finance. His interests lie in business strategy and in particular the role that law plays in determining business strategy. Nearing the end of his studies and uncertain as to whether he wanted to pursue a career in law or in finance, Talapo felt he wanted to gain some experience in the finance world before making a decision. He sought advice from his business and mandarin teacher at his former high school, King’s College, who had a lot of experience working in Asia.

Under his guidance, Talapo was fortunate to be successfully nominated for an internship the Private Equity division for VinaCapital, a leading asset management group in Vietnam. The internship involved an 8-week stint from the start of July to end of August in Vietnam, where Talapo worked on private equity transactions from start to finish. He gained valuable experience assisting with due diligence work, writing investment landscape reports, learning valuation and modelling techniques. He also sat in with the Investment Committee and listened to final pitches, and worked with the Equity Research team. Although not being able to speak Vietnamese meant that he couldn’t work on many local transactions, this may have been a blessing in disguise as he was able to focus on more international work. Another challenge was showing his value in such a short amount of time. Initially, Talapo had to seek out a lot of the work himself but ‘almost drowned in work’ by the end of his time. What stood out most for Talapo from the internship experience was the general supportiveness of the well-established expat New Zealand community in Vietnam, who were “kind and generous with their time.” Talapo explains “They all shared their experience and wisdom with me and also put me in contact with more executives to learn from. I found myself sitting in front of executives from huge companies such Loreal, AIA, Visa, KPMG, Frasers, Colliers, NZTE and was fortunate to share my journey with them.” Talapo returned from Vietnam having made his mind up to pursue a career in finance. On completion of his studies, he aims to head for the South East Asian market after getting some experience in New Zealand. Following his positive experience, he is also keen to encourage more New Zealanders to consider working in South East Asia.

"Being overseas opens your eyes to how big the world is and how endless the opportunities are. If anything, this made me come back to New Zealand with a lot of hope for the future.”


Moana Schwalger law scholarship awarded to Litia Tuiburelevu

Litia Tuiburelevu
Litia Tuiburelevu (Taken from the NZ Herald)

A scholarship honouring a successful Samoan-Kiwi lawyer remembered for her generosity is helping Pasifika law students five years after her tragic death at 35.

Moana Schwalger - a prosecutor at the firm Meredith Connell - lost her life in July 2012, 18 months after being diagnosed with breast cancer soon after the birth of her third child in 2011.

In 2012, her employer, along with the Pacific Lawyers' Association, established an annual $10,000 scholarship for Auckland University law students of Pacific Island or Maori descent in Schwalger's memory.

This year's recipient was 22-year-old fifth-year LLB Honour and Bachelor of Arts conjoint student Litia Tuiburelevu.

Tuiburelevu - of Fijian, Tongan and Pakeha descent - said it had been humbling to receive the scholarship because of Schwalger's legacy.

"It's more than just a financial scholarship that you apply for, there's a lot of meaning behind it because part of the selection process is your involvement within the Pacific community and it's intended that even upon receiving it and working and graduating that you will continue to help and give back."

Schwalger's husband, Tapuai Fa'amalua Tipi, said his wife was a loving, generous person who valued education and was passionate about law.

The scholarship was a fitting way to create a legacy for her that reflected the person she was.

"She was one that everyone gravitates towards just because of her personality and her way of giving. A person who was determined to do well," Tipi said.

Schwalger excelled in her BCom/LLB conjoint at Auckland University and broke glass ceilings during her law career that spanned more than a decade - becoming the first Samoan woman crown prosecutor at Meredith Connell and the first Pacific Islander to be appointed a senior crown prosecutor by the Solicitor General.

She later became an associate at Meredith Connell and also volunteered with the Women's Refuge and mentored youth through church groups.

Schwalger had known a little of the plan to create a scholarship in her name before she died but the couple hadn't discussed it in depth because Schwalger was busy fighting for her life - the cancer was Stage 4 when it was discovered.

"She'd be very, very humbled by the fact that recognition is taking place for her," Tipi said.

However, the scholarship wasn't about acknowledgement for Schwalger.

"It's actually about those who are achieving the awards," Tipi said.

"Put Moana aside, it's a scholarship for those of Pacific or Maori [heritage]. I guess it's an equity thing - to ensure that we get the right support in place."

The Ministry of Education was unable to provide figures on the number of Pasifika students enrolled in law programmes.

But the Ministry's Tertiary Education Outcomes and Qualification Completions report from last year states the proportion of Pacific Islanders who had a bachelor's degree or higher qualification jumped from 5.3 per cent to 9.5 per cent in the decade to 2016.

Seeing the recipients of the scholarship excel in academia was a blessing, Tipi said, and they were positive role models for the pair's kids, now 12, 10 and 6.

"It just highlights to them this is the norm - it's not something to think, 'Oh, my gosh, it's going to be hard to get to'. I want to create a sense of normality that getting a law degree or getting some sort of degree is something that we shouldn't think is not for us and we don't have that capacity."

As well as getting straight As in her degree so far, Tuiburelevu represented New Zealand in karate between 2010-16.

At high school and in her early university years she volunteered at UN Youth New Zealand and in 2014 was the Maori and Pacific liaison officer. She was also involved in the Pacific Island Law Students' Association (Pilsa) and served as its education officer last year.

Like Schwalger, she planned to work in criminal prosecution after graduating in 2018.

Tuiburelevu said she'd use some of her scholarship money to pay off her student loan and would put the rest towards post-graduate studies in a few years.

She had mentored and tutored many enthusiastic, intelligent and ambitious Pasifika students who were completing the first few years of their law degrees and hoped by getting the Moana Schwalger scholarship she could help them achieve their potential, too.

"I think it's just about building that community together. It's important to have that representation and ensure they believe they have the capability to do it and they can achieve and none of this is too fair out of their reach."