“On Thursday evening (13th March 2014) we were invited to the office of the well-known law firm, Meredith Connell, on the 17th Floor of the Forsyth Bar Centre at the business hub of Shortland Street in Central Auckland. The occasion was to award the above scholarship to the first winner and holder of it for the 2014/2015 year. The scholarship was created in memory of a young Samoan woman lawyer, Moana Schwalger, who worked at the law firm until her untimely death at the age of 35 years of age. There was a photograph of the young lawyer hanging above us as we gathered around to celebrate this occasion.
The winner was awarded to Miss Tupouta’anea Atiola. Tupou is the eldest daughter of Rev. Feleti and ‘Aioema ‘Atiola. As everyone knows, Rev. Feleti ‘Atiola is the current Principal of Tupou College, Tongatapu, Tonga. The award was presented by the Senior Partner, Simon Moore, of the law firm and it seemed fitting for him to complete one of his last ceremonial duties before moving on to the High Court Bench from next week. Justice Simon Moore was also the Crown Solicitor for over twenty years. Being a litigator with a sharp mind, Justice Moore (as he is now known) was able to recite the important facts from Tupou’s CV without looking at any note. That Tupou studied at Queen Salote College in Nuku’alofa and later taught at the same College. Later on Tupou went to study for a Bachelor of Commerce at Victoria University in Wellington. She also took a Post Graduate Diploma in Accounting at the same University. Tupou then decided out of curiosity to take up law about four years ago at the University of Auckland. During the University’s holidays for the last two years, Tupou chose to work at the office of the Land ministry in Nuku’alofa, Tonga. Tupou is a staunch follower of the SUTT Church both in Tonga and here in New Zealand.
Tupou was given a chance to speak during ceremony and she thanked a number of people for helping her during her studies. She thanked Meredith Connell and the Pacific Lawyers Association for funding the scholarship. She ended up by reciting a poem composed by the late Tae Kami who was a student at Queen Salote College which was also a moving tribute to the late Moana’s family. Tupou’s parents were not at the ceremony but she was well supported by her uncle and younger sisters. Other Tongan supporters there were Tukia and one of his sons who is nearly completing a law degree at the University of Auckland. The writer ( Joel Mataitini Fotu) was also present at the great occasion.
Tupou will be graduating with a law degree (LL.B) from Auckland University at the May graduation ceremony this year. The scholarship will enable Tupou to complete her Master of Laws degree (LL.M) at the same University at this academic year. At the same time the scholarship will enable Tupou to have an internship at Meredith Connell whenever she completed her Masters degree.
This award is a great honour to the Tongan community given that the selection committee has chosen Tupou on her merits alone rather than her being a Tongan. It is also important on the basis that she is the first holder of the award and not a Samoan young lawyer. It has shown that through hard works one can get places in this society. Tupou will be a good role model for her contemporaries and future young aspiring Tongan lawyers.
We wish Tupou the best in her studies and her future career in the law".
Prepared by : Joel Mataitini Fotu, a practising lawyer with the law firm of Glaister Ennor, High Street, Central Auckland.