Hon ‘Ana Ta’ufe’ulungaki was honoured with the University of Auckland’s Distinguished Alumni Award on March 14.
Taufe’ulungaki with five others – Bruce Aitken, Dr Julie Maxton, Gareth Farr, Dr William Tan and Roseanne Liang – were welcome by about 400 guests of the Auckland University Alumni in an enormous marquee in Old Government House gardens.
Tongan Auckland University ex-students surprised the guests by standing up immediately after Taufe'ulungaki presented her speech and left the pordium.
They sang the hymn 'Eiki ko e 'Ofa 'A'au to show their support for Taufe'ulungaki. The performance was received by a warm applause.
Taufe’ulungaki is Tonga’s Minister of Education and she was graduated from the University of Auckland with a BA majoring in History between 1966 and 1968 before completing a MA in Leeds in 1978. She then went on to complete a PhD at the University of Birmingham in 1988.
"I am totally humbled as it is most unexpected but I am very honoured and proud that I can receive this award on behalf of all the pioneer Polynesian students who paved the way at Auckland University to ensure our of today can also achieve their dreams," she said.
Dr Taufe'ulungaki came to New Zealand in 1964 and attended Epsom Girls Grammar School for two years before starting University in 1966.
It was a very different Campus back then. Dr Taufe'ulungaki says she was one of a small number of Pacific Islands' students at the University at that time. There was very little Pacific cultural activity of any kind.
"I think it was the skill of survival! The academic programme was demanding for a young Pacific islander in those days, and being able simply to survive the three year BA programme was an achievement," she says.
Dr Taufe'ulungaki says the time at the University of Auckland was tough, but it set her up for the rest of her formal study.
"I learned to cope on my own and to rely on my own inner resources. As far as I am concerned the three years at Auckland University were the toughest of my university career. My other studies for my masters' and doctoral degrees in the UK were much easier to cope with. I had learned by then the art of studying and surviving for long periods away from my family and from the familiar context of my own country."
"Focus on your goals and commit yourself to achieve them. No worthwhile goal is ever accomplished without hard work and personal sacrifice," she said.