Pasifika students at Otago University have joined forces to form a collective voice and feel empowered to speak up.
The Pacific Islands Students Association's new president, Mary-Jane Kivalu, said the group was formed not just to provide a Pacific voice in the academic context, but also in the Pasifika setting.
Ms Kivalu said it's important that Pacific students feel empowered to speak up anywhere, any place and any time.
She said the new association, which will begin its official year in 2019, is the pipeline to mobilise that voice for Pacific students.
"Our society tends to be very hierarchical. So if you're the younger, you tend to not have a voice in these settings. But in New Zealand, we need to empower that voice more because this is the future of our Pacific generations," she said.
Ms Kivalu, who helped launch the university's Tongan Alumni Network in the kingdom, said a recent trip there was a "eureka moment" because it helped her reconnect with her roots.
"The trip made me realise how hard I was working for Pacific movements here and made me question why I wasn't working for the same back in Tonga," she said.
Ms Kivalu said there is a growing awareness in Tonga of science as a career pathway and many young people now "think outside the box" about what they want to do in the future.
"Tongan parents usually make all the decisions for their children, and it can seem like we don't have initiative but it's just how we are brought up," she said.
"We have an empowered Pasifika generation coming through and current Pasifika 'scarfies' (nickname for Otago uni students) have made UOPISA (University of Otago Pacific Islands Students Association) happen which is great."