Equality, Belonging and Authority / Power – How can Law, Policy and Practice support best outcomes for Pasifika in Aotearoa New Zealand – Improving Pasifika Legal Education

About the project

This project sets out to increase the number of Pasifika in the legal profession and facilitate Pasifika legal practitioners as leaders in the profession by improving legal education.

Pacific peoples are consistently underrepresented in Law programmes in tertiary education institutions in New Zealand and in the legal profession, making up less than 3% of all lawyers in New Zealand. This reflects and exacerbates the discrimination and disadvantages experienced by Pacific peoples in Aotearoa New Zealand.

At the same time, Pacific people, along with Māori, are over-represented in the criminal justice system. While the statistics are worse for Māori, Pacific people represent 12% of the prison population compared to 8% of the general population.

This project will explore the themes of equality, belonging and authority to better understand the experience and success of Pasifika students who pursue a legal degree. This work will be underpinned by research to identify the barriers and solutions to supporting Pacific people to succeed in law school and to take up a career in the legal profession.

The research approach involves multi-disciplinary talanoa (conversations) through a virtual hub to connect students, graduates and lawyers with academics and policymakers. It will also involve a series of virtual and in-person fono (meetings) throughout the country to listen to the experiences of current and former law students, as well as law graduates – those who became lawyers, and those who chose other careers.

See the media release and read the speech from Minister Aupito William Sio launching the project for more information as well as an article from RNZ on the launch of the Pasifika legal education project.


Grant amount

$233,144 over 20 months starting in late 2020


About the grantee

Te Herenga Waka -Victoria University of Wellington is the lead organisation for this grant and the Honourable Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban, DNZM, Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika), is spearheading the project. In her role, she provides strategic direction and support for Pasifika students and staff. Since 2017 she has been a member of the Australasian Association for Institutional Research, the New Zealand Institute of Directors, the Commissioner of Police’s National Pacific Advisory Forum, and an Auditor for the Academic Quality Agency for New Zealand Universities. She has been a member of the National University of Samoa Council since 2012 and the Institute of Judicial Studies Board since 2011.

The project will take a collective, collaborative approach, undertaking this initiative with relevant colleagues from across the law school community. The project will be guided by an academic advisory group and a student and practitioner advisory group. A research fellow and research assistant will be recruited to drive the initiative.



Pasifika Legal Education Hub project website and Improving Pasifika Legal Education Facebook page

“Pacific peoples are a dynamic and talented group with the fastest growing young population. We have some wonderful examples of Pacific Peoples who have excelled and reached the top jobs in law, but we have a long way to go to ensure we are systematically removing the barriers to success. This study will help us identify how we can best support Pasifika to not only survive at law school, but thrive in the legal profession and judiciary.”

– Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban, DNZM, Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika)