Indigenous voices important for law system to progress
20 September 2023
Law and arts graduate to use conjoint degree to serve Māori and Pacific communities.
Tottah Laulu-Bernard (Afega, Lefaga, Sali’ilua, Falealili), mother of two under two, graduated this spring with a conjoint Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts, majoring in criminology and sociology.
Tottah has always had a passion for serving Māori and Pacific peoples and says although Aotearoa New Zealand is moving towards a more progressive society, Indigenous voices need to be at the forefront.
“As a Pasifika woman, I am aware of the many challenges we face at the hands of a system that oppresses minorities,” Tottah says.
“I saw pursuing a career in law as a way to make a difference on a systemic level. It is vital to have Pasifika voices and perspectives within the legal profession to reflect the interests of our people.
“Increasing the representation of Māori and Pasifika people ensures that our experiences, challenges, and needs are understood and considered in the legal system. This way, we can work towards a more inclusive, fair and equitable society.”
As Tottah reflects on her journey as a mother of two under two, she says it was never a barrier to reach the end, but the fuel that kept her going.
“Funnily enough, the best grades I ever got was when I had my first-born son.
“My studies have been challenging but rewarding. Challenging in the sense that time away from my babies was the trade-off for pursuing my dreams. At times, the mum guilt got the best of me, but I used that as fuel for motivation.”
Increasing the representation of Māori and Pasifika people ensures that our experiences, challenges and needs are understood and considered in the legal system.
Born in Sydney, Australia and raised in South Auckland, Tottah sees no limitations when it comes to her education.
“God and my family have kept me empowered throughout my studies. I am a by-product of collective love and sacrifice,” she says.
“As a child of immigrant parents, I am reminded on a daily what resilience, tenacity and crazy work ethic looks like. As a wife to a husband who has supported me through every step of this journey, I am reminded of what sacrificial love looks like. As a mother of two kids under two, I am reminded of what patience looks like and that learning is never-ending.
“I'm empowered through my village, which has carried me throughout my journey.”
Tottah says it’s important to acknowledge Indigenous peoples, honouring the sacredness of both the people and the land.
“We are the solution and we are needed in these spaces.”
Te Rina Triponel | Kaitohutohu Pāpāho