The road less travelled

Eleven Pasifika law students will cross the stage during Victoria University of Wellington graduation next week, the largest cohort of Pasifika law graduates to take part in a single ceremony. Amongst them will be Master of Laws graduate Lagi Tuimavave, who says the driving motivation behind the achievements of these students is their families.

Lagi Tuimavave
Lagi Tuimavave

“My family and I came to New Zealand from a rural area in Samoa on an immigration quota when I was 11 years old,” says Lagi. Her parents never received a higher education and the family lived frugally. “My parents had a big dream to give us a great education and all I wanted was to make them proud and honour them because of the sacrifices they have made for us,” she says.

And Lagi has certainly done that. A high-achieving student, she was the recipient of five Victoria University of Wellington scholarships and awards while studying towards her undergraduate and Master’s degrees.

The eldest of five children, Lagi was inspired to be a role model for her younger siblings. Serving on the executive body of the Pasifika Law Students Society throughout her time at the University, Lagi says most of the Pasifika students in this cohort of graduates have the same motivation for their studies as she does.

“When I joined the Pasifika Law Students Society in 2012 it had only been going for two years. I organised academic support for students and helped to create a ‘home’ for the very small number of Pasifika students within the Faculty—it was wonderful,” she says.

Attending the Pasifika Law and Culture International Conference three times during her studies, Lagi has watched the numbers of Pasifika law students grow. “It was such an honour to be amongst people like Emeritus Professor Tony Angelo who exude so much energy about working in the Pasifika sphere, even though they’re not of Pasifika descent themselves,” she says.

On the other side of the coin, the opportunity to meet Pasifika members of the New Zealand judiciary such as Sir Anand Satyanand, Judge Ida Malosi and more recently, Judge Soana Moala, while studying at the University “made it possible for people like me to dream beyond my means,” says Lagi. “There is a huge amount of support and interest in developing Pasifika participation, particularly in New Zealand.”

Lagi graduated from Victoria University of Wellington in 2015 with a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts majoring in Samoan Studies and Cultural Anthropology. She gained her Master of Laws in 2018 and now works as a solicitor at Wellington Family Law.