South Pacific law at uni…



In education theory for migrant and minority groups, we advise teachers that students will be drawn into their subject when they see something about themselves, their backgrounds and their cultures reflected in the learning. Bishop et al (2007) contend that students are better able to make sense of the material they are grappling with when their cultures are used as a building block in the learning process. Students can meaningfully engage with material because they can draw on prior knowledge with some recognition of the learning conditions. Ultimately, culturally appropriate and rich environments enhance a person’s learning and therefore achievement.

The University of Auckland Law School offers approximately 55 elective courses and one is devoted to South Pacific Legal Issues. The paper is offered in consecutive years subject to the faculty appointing a suitable coordinator or academic to teach it. In just a few weeks the paper will wrap up at the end of this current semester and then go back to the waiting list till its time to appoint someone again. The University of Auckland Law School is considered one of the best in the world, ranked in the top 20 by “the prestigious QS world university rankings’. Last year in great excitement the Dean of the Faculty said that “it’s an incredibly good place to study law.”

As I noted in a previous post, the university has set itself the goal of having a diverse student body with the highest possible academic potential. Auckland has the unique and privileged position of being located in the south Pacific and therefore the opportunity to readily critique legal systems in the region. It has the opportunity compare indigenous legal systems from the Pacific with its own and other western systems. It could use this as a way of meaningfully engaging potential Pasifika students in a way few other universities in the western world could. The opportunities are endless. Yet all it offers is one paper on South Pacific legal issues, every second year. Pretty hopeless effort, really.

It’s only now in schools that we’re encouraging greater levels of understanding and appreciation of how young people’s cultures are building blocks to their learning. That when they recognise a part of themselves in the learning material and environment, their learning outcomes are enhanced. Our parents still believe that becoming a lawyer is at the epitome of educational success. There are numerous Pasifika lawyers in this city and surely the law faculty wouldn’t have to look too far out the window to recognise Pasifika legal intelligence and ability – there’s even a Samoan judge they could speak to at the Manukau youth court. Sadly like many of our schools, it’s too hard for the law faculty to reflect the cultural backgrounds of all its learners so they just stick to what they know… the good old two year summons.


  1. Good on Auckland University for training our lawyers to be able to take on the world and not be restricted to just “Pacific” issues. We need more Pacific lawyers being world class on the global stage – lets not restrict ourselves. My own nephew doing law told me that there is not enough interest (even from the Pacific students) for this course – which is why it is offered every second year. If my brother in Tonga wanted his son to be good at “Pacific” law then he would have sent him to USP in Vanuatu. No, my brother wants his son to be in the best law school in NZ and to be able to get a job anywhere in the world and not just in the Pacific region or in South Auckland.

  2. Why would you congratulate an institution for masking its Eurocentric position and in particular a faculty which upholds educational structural discrimination?

    As a Pacific law student at the university, there is ample support for the South Pacific legal paper being offered every year. Contrary to your nephew’s view the reason the paper is only offered every two years is because the Faculty REFUSE to appoint a permanent pasifika academic staff member to teach the course, despite several years of constant recommendations by students, staff and equity services.

    Furthermore, I’m pretty sure last time I checked New Zealand was located in the Pacifc? Would it not make sense to learn about the region’s legal systems…Or wait… are our “Pacific laws” not good enough to be considered on the “global stage”?

    And lets not overlook the fact that our customary laws are equally valid and have operated for centuries on end governing our countries long before colonisation. But it is clear that the stains of colonisation still plague the attitudes and perceptions of people such as yourself and your brother because you continuously uphold Eurocentric views about our regional legal systems being taught at the University of Auckland.

    Lets face it, the faculty doesn’t care about its Pacific students or commitment to appoint a Pacific Academic lecturer. Nor does it care about its equitable obligations to pacific and minority students. More alarmingly, they don’t care about the Pacific content in law papers.

    So much for NZ’s leading university…

    Well I better get back to studying… because studying Pacific issues according to you, will only enable me to work in South Auckland and the Pacific. What an exciting prospect! YUSSS!!!!


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