Kia Ora and Talofa Lava,
I’d just like to start off by honouring my parents who have come to support me tonight. They have invested a lot of time and resources into my education and getting me to where I am today. It’s moments like these, where I have the opportunity to talk in front of a distinguished crowd like this, that I’m reminded of how blessed I am to have parents like my own. So, thank you mum and dad.
When Anne called me last week to inform me of my selection and to ask whether I wanted to talk at tonight’s gala dinner, I thought of course why not! What law student doesn’t like to hear the sound of their voice? But then it got me thinking, what should I even talk about? Should I pull together a motivational speech that’ll make out that my life is carefree?
Funnily enough I was quickly reminded of one of the most important lessons that I had learnt in the last few weeks of my internship.
Just be yourself. As a pacific island Maori woman interning at one of the big 4, there were moments where I didn’t think I could simply... just be myself. There were times where I felt like working in a corporate environment wasn’t for me. I struggled at first trying to fit in and it wasn’t because of the way the other interns were treating me, but the way I saw myself in an environment where there was hardly anyone who looked like me. However, what I had learnt during my internship was that if you just simply be yourself and be comfortable in your own skin, you will go far.
This week I was fortunate enough to be offered a grad role at EY and I can honestly tell you, it was simply because I decided to be myself. When you remove the barriers that stop you from reaching your full potential, the right doors start to open. We as a Pacific Island and Maori people are destined for some seriously great things, but we won’t get there if we continue to underestimate and sell ourselves short.
I decided to study law because I wanted to be a voice for our people. But what I’ve come to realise is that being a voice for our people doesn’t necessarily mean going to court to fight the injustices they may face but being a voice in a crowd where there aren’t that many of us.
Tupu Toa have not only allowed me to gain job security once I graduate, but they have also allowed me to build on the skills that I have already gained to channel into other areas of my life. As the female president of the Pacific Island Law Student Association this year, I plan on utilising the leadership skills I’ve learnt during my internship by transferring them into leading this association with excellence.
We are the navigators of the next generation and it is time for us to step up and lead.
To Anne, Yole and the rest of the Tupu Toa team – thank you for providing me this opportunity.
Fa’afetai mo le ava noa.