|dc.description.abstract||Law schools are a way to improve the position and status of Pacific peoples in New Zealand. This may be accomplished by increasing legal representation for Pacific peoples and providing Pacific communities with social and economic mobility.
But, is law school a vehicle for improvement and economic gain for Pacific peoples? Or is law school a disheartening torment disconnected from Pacific values and without real outcomes for Pacific peoples? This thesis will address these issues.
This thesis explores the experiences of Pacific law students in New Zealand. First the study aimed to problematise the assumptions and equity programmes prevalent in New Zealand law schools for Pacific students. Second the study aimed to suggest positive ways to re-conceptualise and optimise New Zealand law schools for Pacific students.
The thesis uses a Pacific Teu Le Va paradigm and methodology to explore the relationships between New Zealand law schools and Pacific students. I adopted a case study approach, capturing case studies on four New Zealand law schools to explore the experiences of Pacific students within individual law schools. Each individual case study uses historical archives, quantitative law school data and qualitative data from interviews of staff and students collected in 2012 to investigate the Pacific law student experience. I then examined all case studies together to explore the overall and comparative experiences of Pacific students across New Zealand law schools.
The findings from this thesis challenge the assumption that equity programmes in law schools are a purely positive experience for Pacific students. Instead the findings from this thesis indicate that New Zealand law schools shape, or attempt to shape, Pacific students into an ideal “law student” and “lawyer” prototype, who is disconnected from morality, religion, sharing of resources, communal values and sense of justice. There remains a huge mismatch between Pacific peoples’ values and law schools’ cultures.
This thesis suggests that the assumptions surrounding remedial equity programmes, while sometimes helpful in attaining the numbers for substantive equality in outcomes and in assisting Pacific students navigate a foreign environment, are not enough. To truly improve the position and status of Pacific peoples in New Zealand, law schools should 1) reconsider and re-evaluate the purpose and function of its equity programmes, 2) educate and train academics and administrators to effectively serve Pacific students’ actual needs, and 3) adjust the curriculum and pedagogy so it is relevant and appropriate to Pacific students and communities.||