Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Pacific Lawyers Association marks 21 year journey in Aotearoa

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
The Pacific Lawyers Association (PLA) was first established back in 2001. In October 2022, the PLA marked its 21st anniversary, and celebrated the occasion at its 21st Anniversary Dinner on 14 October 2022 at Okahu Events Centre. Photo: Supplied
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Gladys Hartson | Senior Journalist

“It was a Journey of faith.” Newly appointed Principal Youth Court Judge Ida Malosi recalls the journey a small group of lawyers took 21 years ago to establish the Pacific Lawyers Association (PLA).

Members of the legal and justice sector from across the country gathered in Auckland’s Okahu Bay last month to mark the milestone celebration. 

The PLA was founded by 15 Pacific lawyers, all of whom have gone on to do many great things in the profession as well as for the wider community. 

They include the first President of the PLA, the Chief Justice of Samoa, Satiu Simativa Perese and Judge Ida Malosi who became the first Pacific female judge in New Zealand. 

Founding members including Ali’imuamua Sandra Alofivae, Taimalelagi Frank Godinet, Nina Muller, Fuimaono Gardenia Atimalala, reflected on the purpose and aim of creating the association and shared their thoughts on a special video tribute to mark the celebration.  

Taimalelagi Frank Godinet says, “It came out during the time after we had the Springboks tour, occupation at Bastion point and the Dawn Raids.”

Fuimaono Gardenia Atimalala noted that the PLA was born out of a desire to see Pasifika lawyers excel. 

“It’s not about chasing the dollar and just pushing ourselves, it’s actually being out there, being in the community to serve our community,” she says.

Former PLA President Tania Sharkey described the importance of the PLA. “The pride, the joy, the collegiality, the warmth, the ofa; I knew we were on to something and that was a turning point for us. We are the voices of the least, the last and the lost and part of that includes ourselves.”

Current President Arti Chand says another highlight for the PLA was being invited to become a member of the NZ Law Society council. 

“That was a very formal and public acknowledgement of the importance of the PLA in terms of the wider profession,” she says. 

According to the NZ Law Society, Pacific lawyers account for three percent of the profession with more than 350 lawyers identifying as Pacific. PLA member Maria Sopoaga says the association has meant a sense of family. 

“Particularly in the profession we can be kind of lonely out there as Pacific lawyers. Sometimes you often feel like one of one,” she says.

Another PLA member Leilani Taula agrees, “there’s not alot of us in the legal profession and PLA is a place that you can go to for support, a place you can go if you need mentoring in a particular area.” 

With PLA marking 21 years, the members are looking ahead to the future and the next generation of lawyers. 

Another PLA member Wiliame Guacke says,  “The founding members have created a legacy. It’s not a time to rest but to continue to fight.” 

Ali’imuamua Sandra Alofivae says the future is looking bright and that the PLA will continue to be a vehicle to support the Pacific legal profession. 

“We have lived through the changing of the times. Our prayer is that whatever our ceiling is, whatever the top that we can go to in our generation, that you will bust through those ceilings and go even higher to greater levels.”

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