Massey University Pasifika distance student representative Elva Opuu was born and raised on Rarotonga and Manihiki. Opuu is calling on Massey students based in the Cook Islands to get in touch to form a “Kuki Club” to gather and connect learners. 23120340
An Australia-based Cook Islander elected as a student representative for Pasifika distance learners at Massey University is working on forming a “Kuki Club” for students and alumni around the world.
Massey Pasifika distance student representative Elva Opuu is
urging the university’s 43 students based in the Cook Islands to get in touch
to become part of the club bringing the island nation’s students together and
giving them access to $1500 or more in start-up funding.
“We have a big cohort of Massey University students in
Rarotonga, something I am proud of,” said 30-year-old Opuu, who is studying
towards a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Social Policy.
“We hope we can look after them in any way we can, going
Seven people were needed to form a club – which would be
affiliated with the New Zealand-based university’s students association, Te
Tira Ahu Pae.
Opuu, who is partnering with Massey student voice
facilitator Kiesha Dais to establish the “Kuki Club”, said the funding given
for forming the club could be used to host “Kai and Talanoa” events to gather
and connect students in the Cook Islands throughout the year.
One of Opuu’s main goals as a distance Pasifika student
representative was to create dedicated spaces for the learners “scattered all
throughout the world”, the first item on her agenda having been to establish a
Facebook and Instagram page for the group.
“I remember a couple of years ago, I searched for these
spaces and couldn’t find any,” she said.
“Another [goal] was building student engagement.
“The distance space is complex. There are students who are
eager to connect with other students, and there are those who are okay with
just getting through their studies and not wanting to make those connections –
and that’s fine. We respect that too.”
Through her role, Opuu had built connections with
humanitarian organisations such as Humanitarian Affairs Asia through her work
in the role – and even been accepted as a delegate to the Global Peace Summit
conference next month.
“Given the dates and time of the event, I am still deciding
whether or not to attend the summit in Thailand.”
Among her “proudest” moments was, during quiz nights and
discussion sessions she was hosting, been thanked by students for her “efforts
in creating opportunities for student engagements”.
“They tell me it’s their first time while studying at Massey
University that they are finally seeing things happening for Pasifika students
in the distance space.”
Opuu was elected as a student representative by a margin of
one vote at the start of the year.
“I was really surprised when I saw the election results and
that I had been successful,” she said.
“My job was to pro-actively seek opportunities to improve
student life and address student needs, provide feedback especially on boards
of the university that I was on this year, collaborate with staff from the
Pacific Success team, and recently collaborating with Kiesha Dais – in
particular, to create opportunities for Cook Islands students who study with
Massey University going forward.”
Te Tira Ahu Pae’s Pasifika cohort consisted of president
Aniva Feau; representatives from the university’s three physical campuses in
Auckland, Palmerston North, and Wellington; Opuu as the distance student
representative; and three event co-ordinators.
Born and raised in Rarotonga and Manihiki – Opuu has
represented the Cook Islands in handball, football, and volleyball.
Opuu had been part of the country’s “handball family” since
she was 13 years old, playing in the Partile Cup in Europe in 2006 and being
crowned top goal scorer while competing for the Oceania under 20s Handball
Challenge Trophy in Samoa in 2012.
She also played for the Cook Islands under 20s football team
An avid volleyball player since high school, Opuu
represented the Cook Islands at the Pacific Challenge in 2011 and had played
for the Manukau South Volleyball Club in New Zealand at the regional and
“In the past two years, I have been trying to make a
comeback, being involved with the volleyball community here in Western Australia.”
Opuu has lived in Perth with her partner and three children
– Kalamoana, 6, Tuiatua, 5, and Toanui, 1 – since 2016. Her two step-sons live
Opuu said she had been “bouncing around” with her study
before becoming a mother, dabbling in an airline customer services programme at
the Air New Zealand Institute; a health course at the Auckland University of
Technology; and a social worker degree with Te Wanangao Aotearoa.
“Achieving higher education has always been something that I
have been passionate about,” she said.
“It wasn’t until I became pregnant and decided to put my
life on hold to be a full-time mother, I soon realised this couldn’t be it for
me, so I decided to start getting back into actually finishing my degree – but
I discovered I had a deep interest in the matters of social policy.
“Luckily, after a little research and looking at all my
options in both Australia and New Zealand, Massey University was my only
It was through the pure “self-determination” Opuu instilled
in her mind to study “again, one more time” that she had been able to juggle
studying with raising her children.
“My kids, while also partly the reason I have to request
extensions on my assignments all the time, they are my why.”
Opuu said 2024 would be her last year of study before
competing her degree, during which she hoped to “achieve as much as I can in
terms of student representation”.
Next year, she would be moving into the “general cohort” as
one of three general distance student representatives.
“Te Tira Ahu Pae has a tripartite structure, with three
presidents: general/distance, Maori, and Pasifika. I was part of the Pasifika
cohort this year, but next year I move into the general cohort – a bigger
portfolio and student engagement.
“While that may be the case, I will still be highly involved
with the Pasifika cohort and will be working closely with the Pasifika
co-presidents, as there are a couple of projects happening for Pasifika with Te
Tira Ahu Paea at Massey University next year.”