Law / Life / Student life

Spotlight on Law Students’ Societies: VUW PLSS

Recent Victoria Univeristy Law School graduate and 2016 Co-President of the VUW PLSS, Melanie Puka, highlights her experience of being involved in PLSS and why it’s important.

If it weren’t for the Pasifika Law Students’ Society (PLSS), my journey through Law School would’ve been a lot lonelier.

I consider myself a late bloomer as far as joining the Maori and Pacific Island/PLSS/Nga Rangahautira family goes. It wasn’t until my fourth year that I decided to get involved with PLSS by attending my first general meeting. I was elected Secretary.

I quickly learned what it felt like to have a sense of belonging in a place that conditions you for a competitive, corporate – and palagi-oriented – world. I met some of my greatest friends as part of the PLSS executive, but I also connected with other, more junior students, I wouldn’t have met otherwise. There were people who had similar backgrounds, who also had to balance family and Church duties, study and other co-curricular activities, all while figuring out our place in the world.

PLSS aims to build an environment for Pasifika Law students to learn in a collaborative manner, share ideas and experiences, connect students with alumni and to socialise with each other.

Tamata Pasifika seminars are held for alumni to share experiences and for current students to connect to practitioners and academics alike. These seminars give law students an opportunity to find out what life might be like for them after law school. I realised from attending these that legal practice isn’t the only career path post-law school.

In my last year at law school, Victoria hosted the Pasifika Law and Culture Conference 2016. Not only was this a chance to meet peers from universities around Aotearoa, but also to meet those from the University of the South Pacific. We were also fortunate to meet some of the academics that we’d read, who have made important contributions to the legal systems and constitutional arrangements in the Pacific.

The social events – such as monthly breakfasts, regular BYO dinners, and the Law Ball, to name a few ­– provided us with the chance to build connections with other Pasifika law students. While law school was not all coffee dates, booze-fuelled BYOs and dancing, having these connections was crucial to my growth as a student of the law.

There were many heated debates about the law – most of them about whether the law was right. Why are 17-year-olds treated as adults in the Criminal Justice system?  What place should customary law hold in a common law country?  Has the power of the Westphalian nation-state given way to that wielded by international institutions?  These kinds of conversations are an important part of learning and more broadly, challenging yourself to think critically.

I would encourage Pasifika law students to get amongst the events and activities, make some connections with people who have been there done that, and build relationships. After all, these are the things that add value to your degree and those relationships will be the ones you call on when the going gets tough.


If you want to get involved or learn more, you can connect with PLSS on Facebook or email

Image property of VUW PLSS