Eri is following in the proud footsteps of her grandfather who was the first Cook Islander to complete a law degree at the University of Auckland. Her father is also a lawyer and so she will be the third generation in her family to pursue a career in law.
Eri says her grandfather’s law degree opened many doors for her family and that has enabled her to have the education and opportunities she has enjoyed.
Eri was born in Hamilton and then moved to Raratonga when she was four years old. Her father is from the Cook Islands and her mother is from the Solomon Islands. Her parents wanted her and her siblings to grow up with the culture in Rarotonga. She lived there until she was 13 and then came to New Zealand to boarding school. Her family; grandparents, parents and six siblings all still live in the Cook Islands.
“Raro is home to me’” she says. Eri has been in New Zealand for the last ten years to complete her education. She went to St Cuthberts College for a year and then moved to Epsom Girls Grammar. Boarding school was a highlight of her life in New Zealand, teaching her independence and responsibility at a young age.
At University, Eri started a conjoint Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Commerce degree. It wasn’t without it’s challenges she says, she didn’t get into law in her first year, so her degree has taken an extra year, a total of six years.
Eri completed her degree with the support of a scholarship from the Cook Islands Government, and will return there to work there as an Investment Analyst for the Cook Islands National Superannuation Fund as a part of her scholarship bond. She recently completed a summer internship with law firm, Bell Gully and enjoyed being able to learn some practical application of the law to go with the theory she learnt at university. Her time with Bell Gully was invaluable being among some of the best in the legal profession, and is the highlight of her summer.
She is grateful to TupuToa for the foot in the door and networking opportunities which she considers to be one of the most important things for a young professional. She says it is one thing to be at university studying law and apply for law clerkships but it is quite another to have the backing of an organisation like TupuToa.
Eri says she would like to support other Pasifika and Māori graduates in their pathway as it is challenging to overcome a sense of Imposter Syndrome or feeling you don’t belong in professional settings as there are still not often many ‘brown faces’ in the corporate world. She says it is difficult as a Pasifika or Māori student because you can feel a pressure to over-compensate to prove your worth.
Eri says because Māori and Pasifika are so under-represented, it can be challenging to put yourself out there and many don’t apply for professional courses or roles because it isn’t comfortable. She says that is why organisations like TupuToa are so amazing because when you go to a to TupuToa event or workshop you are with a whole lot of people in the same boat with so much value to offer.