First nationwide study on supporting Pasifika success at Law School

A ground-breaking study on improving Pasifika legal education in Aotearoa New Zealand will be hosted and driven out of Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington with the support of the Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation.

The Borrin Foundation has awarded $230,000 for a collaborative project led by Hon Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban, Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika) at the University to explore the themes of equality, belonging, and authority in law. The project will bring together academics, students, graduates, legal practitioners, and policy makers from across the country to identify the barriers to Pasifika entering and succeeding in law schools and recommend interventions for change.

“Pacific people are consistently underrepresented in Law programmes in New Zealand, at undergraduate, honours and postgraduate levels. We are also underrepresented in the legal profession, making up less than three percent of all lawyers in New Zealand, while we make up eight percent of the general population,” says Dame Winnie Laban.

She says these statistics reflect and exacerbate the discrimination and disadvantages experienced by Pacific people in Aotearoa New Zealand, noting that Pacific people are over-represented at every stage of the criminal justice system.

One of the aims of the project is to create a collaborative research hub to provide a platform for multi-disciplinary “talanoa” (conversations) amongst leaders in different fields. A series of virtual and in-person “fono” (meetings) will be held 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.

“I am very honoured for Victoria University of Wellington to host this important project for Pasifika legal education,” says Professor Mark Hickford, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Law. “The Hon Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban and I have worked together to ensure that we can bring a collective, collaborative approach to this significant issue for New Zealand and will be undertaking this initiative with relevant colleagues from across the law school community.”

“Pacific people are a dynamic and talented group with the fastest growing young population in Aotearoa New Zealand,” says Dame Winnie Laban. “We have some wonderful examples of Pacific people 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 successfully complete their degree at law school, but thrive in the legal profession and judiciary.”


The Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation is a philanthropic organisation that supports legal education, research and scholarship. The vision of the foundation is an Aotearoa New Zealand where everyone understands the role and value of the law, and everyone enjoys the protection and opportunity that it provides. More information about the Borrin Foundation and its grants can be found at