Tuākana student journeys

Denyce Su'a

Denyce Su'a pictured on a courtyard
Denyce Su'a

Vaivase and Salelologa, Samoa
Bachelor of Arts (BA), 2013
Bachelor of Arts (BA(Hons)), 2014
Master of Arts (MA), 2015

My parents always used to talk about their days at university, so when I left high school I was super excited to make memories of my own and work hard to get that degree. Lessons learnt at the University of Auckland go far beyond the classroom walls. Everyday I’m inspired by my fellow Pasifika students and everyday I’m reminded of what an amazing institution I’m studying at.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt at the University of Auckland is never be afraid to ask for help. I don’t think I would have made it through my undergrad years if it weren’t for the Tuākana Arts family. They hold extra workshops and tutorials just so you get your best shot at excellence, plus it’s an easy way to make new friends and score free food.

I was lucky to start off my studies with help from the Equity Office. In addition, the CATS* scholarship I was awarded helped pay for my undergraduate degree and also allowed me to meet and network with different staff and students from all around the University. It’s been five years since I joined the University of Auckland community and I get what my parents were talking about. These past years have been some of the most challenging and rewarding of my life so far.

Enoka Wehi

Enoka Wehi outside of the marae
Enoka Wehi

Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau ā Apanui, Te Whakatōhea, Ngāi Tuhoe
Bachelor of Science (BSc) majoring in Environmental Science and Geography, 2nd year
Ko Pukehāpōpō te nohoanga tīpuna, he pātaka iringa korero
Ko Pukehāpōpō te whakatinanatanga o ngā whakapapa
Ko Pukehāpōpō te toka āhuru, te toka whakairo

I am from a small settlement known as Whāngārā, approximately 35km north of Gisborne on the beautiful East Coast. Made famous in recent times by the feature film produced from Witi Ihimaera’s story, The Whale Rider, Whāngārā is my slice of paradise.

Coming from a school where we were so sheltered and protected, the big jump from Ngā Puna Ō Waiōrea to the world-ranked University of Auckland was quite terrifying for this small Māori boy from Gisborne. I began my journey into the big world with a few speed bumps; however these were soon smoothed out by great friends, sneaky lunch dates and lots of aroha and support from whānau. The University’s Tuākana and CATS* whānau have helped me in so many ways, both financially and in terms of academic encouragement.

It’s always nice to know there is someone there to catch you if you fall or even just to sit and chill with, especially when times become stressful and you feel like giving up. The memories I’ve made as a first-year student have been wicked and I look forward to many more.

Scholarships and associations

  • University of Auckland Chancellor’s Awards for Top Māori and Pacific Scholars (CATS), 2015-2017
  • Ngā Tauira Māori (NTM)

Kalisiana Buliruarua

Kalisiana Buliruarua on her graduation with her family
Kalisiana Buliruarua

Vaturova, Cakaudrove; Raviravi, Beqa (Fiji)
Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Health Sciences (LLB/BHSc), 2015

As Pacific people, our journey through education isn’t ours alone but is the result of the efforts of our families, our ancestors and the prayers of numerous people. I have a lot to be grateful for now that I have finished this chapter of my life.

Being part of the Pacific family at the University of Auckland has been an amazing experience. Without the support of my whānau and friends, my journey would have been very different. It is one thing to come to University and leave with that coveted piece of paper but to come and experience a rich culture and leave with the grounded sense of belonging is truly something I will always be grateful for.

Being awarded a CATS* scholarship was great motivation to come to the University of Auckland and was the first step towards my goal of obtaining a Law degree. During my time at University, it was the guidance of the CATS mentors, PASS (Pasifika Academic Support Strategies) tutors and Pacific support staff that got me through. I also made many lifelong friends through my involvement in various Pacific student associations such as Gone Ni Viti, AUPISA and PILSA.

These experiences were invaluable as they helped me to create networks, learn more about working with people, and they provided me with opportunities to serve my Pacific community here on campus.


  • University of Auckland Chancellor’s Awards for Top Māori and Pacific Scholars (CATS), 2009-2011
  • CATS mentor, 2011-2014  

Abby Hauraki

Abby Hauraki outside of the Auckland High Court building
Abby Hauraki

Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Porou
Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws (BA/LLB), 5th year

I remember how nervous I felt about leaving the comforts of high school in 2010 to embark on my conjoint Bachelor of Arts/Laws degree at the University of Auckland. It was a difficult decision and one that I have not regretted. My confidence grew as I learnt to think critically and outside of the box. Te Rākau Ture (TRT, the Māori Law Students’ Association) became my whānau away from home.

A highlight has been our annual Haerenga, where we travel around the motu promoting tertiary study to school students. Through my involvement with TRT and with my various papers, I have developed a passion around Māori engagement with the criminal justice system, youth justice and Iwi Corporate Governance.

I have also been a CATS* scholar and mentor, and a Law tutor. This has allowed me to receive and share study tips and general advice to first-year students. The journey has been tough at times, but it has taught me resilience and strength. I now have the confidence to step into the workplace as a young Māori woman who knows where she has come from and where she is going. I can’t wait for you to begin the journey that will help you achieve the life you dream of. Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me he maunga teitei.

Scholarships and associations

  • University of Auckland Chancellor’s Awards for Top Māori and Pacific Scholars (CATS), 2010
  • Ngāpuhi Scholarship, 2015
  • NCEA English and History Scholar, 2010 
  • Executive member, Te Rākau Ture 
  • Māori Lawyers Society - Te Hunga Roia Māori o Aotearoa 
  • AULSS and AUSA 
  • University of Auckland Scuba Diving Club, Premier Netball, and Unim8s Netball and Touch teams 
  • Contributor to the “Books in Prisons” initiative   

Paula Ketu’u

Paula Ketu’u on Aotea Square
Paula Ketu’u

Lotofoa, Ha’apai (Tonga)
Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Commerce (LLB/BCom), 5th year in 2016

At Dilworth School in Auckland, I found a passion for accounting. That might sound odd for a young Tongan boy who only moved to New Zealand at the age of 11, but I developed a knack for the subject. This interest continued as I decided to go on to tertiary study.

The choice of which university to go to was made easier when I was blessed with a University of Auckland Chancellor’s Award for Top Māori and Pacific Scholars (CATS*). The CATS award gave me a strong support network at University and eased my transition into tertiary study. This support, coupled with the assistance of the University-wide Tuākana programme, has made my studies so much easier.

I was given help by qualified mentors and tutors who assisted in my learning. I was also involved in the formation of the Commerce Association for Pacific and Māori (CAPM) and also joined the Pacific Islands Law Students’ Association (PILSA). These student associations exposed me to a strong professional development programme, and they helped me balance out the workload with sports days, cultural fono and social events.

I am nearing the end of my University journey and I can honestly say I could not have done it without the support of my mother, grandparents, siblings and rest of my family. All my success I attribute to their prayers and support.
Tu'a 'Ofa atu.


  • University of Auckland Chancellor’s Award for Top Māori and Pacific Scholars (CATS), 2013-2015

*From 2017, CATS scholarships are being placed by the University of Auckland Māori Academic Excellence Scholarships and the University of Auckland Pacific Academic Excellence Scholarships.