Becoming a lawyer
What inspired you to
enrol for Whanau Ara Mua?
My family and I moved from South Africa to New Zealand in 2009. We had a shaky start due to the fact that my son was born here two months premature, and he and I were both very unwell for a long time. Before I knew it, it was 2013, I’d been out of the job market for almost four years and was in desperate need of upskilling. I’d also had very little interaction with New Zealanders because I spent a lot of time at home. Whanau Ara Mua provided me with the perfect opportunity to remedy this situation.
How did the programme
I was hoping that Whanau Ara Mua would allow me to develop my social skills to the point where I was confident enough to attend job interviews in a different cultural environment. I was not even thinking about further study! However, part of the programme was future goal planning, and I just put down “further study” because it was easier than writing down an entire plan. Well that backfired! My tutor expected me to research what I wanted to study, and my husband latched on to the idea of having a lawyer for a wife, and the whole situation just got away from me. I ended up applying to law school with the secret hope that I would not get accepted. But I did!
As it turned out, Whanau Ara Mua forced me out of complacency and made me take proactive steps to plan for my future. My tutor was encouraging and supportive and she made me believe in myself. That gave me the confidence to enrol at the University of Auckland Law School.
Earlier this year you
graduated with your Law Degree, and you have just been admitted to the bar.
Congratulations! Tell us a bit about that journey.
To be honest I’m still pinching myself to make sure I’m not dreaming - it all seems so surreal! The last four years have been very intense, and it was difficult at times, especially with a family to care for. But I’m really proud that I persevered and am happy that I’ve set a good example for my children to follow. My husband and children have been so supportive, they’ve been my biggest cheerleaders.
Whanau Ara Mua prepared me well for my tertiary studies - I learnt how to interact with different people from all over the world, I discovered new ways of presenting ideas and managing conflict, and I became confident in my ability to competently complete tasks and assignments. Law school was really competitive, and I never really felt good enough, but I ended up being one of the 300 of the 1500 first year law students to gain entry into the second year, and I was also one of the two winners of the Brian Shenkin Memorial Family Law moot.
I started interning for the Auckland Community Law Centre earlier this year and then they offered me a permanent role as a junior solicitor. I’m looking forward to gaining more experience and learning from the brilliant team here at the law centre.
What does the future
That’s the beauty of the future! It’s wide open and I can be anything I want to be. Eventually I would love to move out of Auckland to a small town in New Zealand and practice family law.
I’ve always been passionate about access to justice for the most vulnerable people in society. I saw a lot of people being unable to access even the most basic services when I was young. For me, being a lawyer is being able to give voice to those who cannot speak for themselves.
What has helped keep
you going through the tough times?
The conviction that if you just do it, if you fully commit, great things can happen. I was 18 years old and looking for work in Johannesburg when I read a quote in the newspaper. I remind myself of these words every time I face a challenge that seems overwhelming:
“This may sound too simple but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets: Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!” W. H. Murray.