Leadership through service

Conjoint degree student La-Teish Brown chose to study science and law for a specific purpose – to protect sacred spaces from coastal erosion.

Ko Ōperu te maunga,
Ko Reporua te awa,
Ko Ngāti Porou te iwi,
Ko Ngāti Rangi te hapū,
Ko Reporua te marae,
Ko La-Teish Meri Maureen Brown tōku ingoa.

Final year Science/Law student La-Teish Brown selected Ecology and Environmental Science as her science specialisations.

“Raised in Tāmaki Makaurau, I have always returned to my whānau and whenua, in Te Tairāwhiti, where my identity and whakapapa is inextricably linked to the land,” says La-Teish. “My beautiful marae sits adjacent to the ocean and river. Over the years, I have become increasingly aware of the erosion slowly eating away at the whenua, which will soon disturb the resting place of my nanny Te Horowaitai and whānau at Reporua marae.”

Spurred by her concern of potentially losing these sacred spaces, she chose a science degree to learn the impacts of environmental issues and how to solve them. “I also felt that having a Bachelor of Laws would enable me better insight into the legal systems and policies that would facilitate needed changes to ameliorate the loss of this precious taonga.”

During her studies she received the Prime Minister's scholarship award for Latin America. This enabled her to spend a month in Brazil learning indigenous history, rights, and environmental sustainability efforts with fellow tauira.

“A personal learning that I was able to identify with was the shared devastation and ongoing impacts of colonisation on Brazil’s indigenous people. It was heartening to witness their resilience and selflessness despite ongoing adversity and their ambition to retain their languages, stories and traditions.”

La-Teish says along her academic journey she has enjoyed sharing kōrero and values the teachings of her fellow tauira and kaiako. “Feeding off their enthusiasm, passion, and purpose for pursuing their discipline has inspired me on my journey.”

La-Teish Brown, Ngāti Uepōhatu, Ngāti Porou, Te Aitanga a Māhaki, Apia & Papa Sataua. Photo: Henry McMullan
La-Teish Brown, Ngāti Uepōhatu, Ngāti Porou, Te Aitanga a Māhaki, Apia & Papa Sataua. Photo: Henry McMullan

After graduation, she intends to undertake a diploma to fully immerse herself in te reo Māori, tikanga Māori and mātauranga Māori. “This will allow me to reclaim my language for my whānau to develop my understanding, communication, and ability to work with my people and serve them in the future.”

Following this, she has an important goal to pursue. “My dream job would incorporate an iwi-based role that contributes to real and positive change to benefit Māori, Pasifika and other indigenous peoples recognising the value of indigenous models, which are ecologically sustainable and have been tested over generations.”

Outside of her studies, La-Teish took part in the KPMG’s 2021 Kiwa mentoring programme and also served an internship with the Ministry for Primary Industries. “Both these experiences allowed me to gain valuable insight into both the public and corporate sectors,” she says.

“Many people have contributed to my journey; Arohanui ki a koutou kātoa.”


“My Samoan heritage values tautua, a tradition that recognises the pathway to leadership is through service. Participating as a tutor for the Tuākana programme for the School of Environment and serving as an executive member of the Nesian Indigenous Science Student Association (NISSA) has allowed me to support the cultural and social wellbeing of other Māori and Pasifika students."

She adds, “I am also involved in organising and participating in research involving our whakapapa, cultural history and recording this information for posterity.”

However, La-Teish stresses that her achievements are a result of the love and support of her collective. “My Tīpuna have set me on my path, and my parents Matuhara and Judy, are my pou (my support, strength and stability). They have inspired and nurtured my growth, investing in my dreams and aspirations.”

Professional teaching fellow Phil Kane’s support also helped her through some challenging times. “Many people have contributed to my journey; Arohanui ki a koutou kātoa.”


This article appears in the 2021 edition of inSCight, the print magazine for Faculty of Science alumni. View more articles from inSCight.

Contact inSCight.