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Balancing motherhood and studies: Tatuava-Taripo’s inspiring journey to serve her community

Tuesday 5 March 2024 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Features


Balancing motherhood and studies: Tatuava-Taripo’s inspiring journey to serve her community
Aleyna-Joy Taripo (Crown Counsel at the Crown Law Office) and been admitted to the Bar. She is pictured with her proud parents, Eugene and Helen Tatuava. MELINA ETCHES/23030409

From early motherhood and years of perseverance and sacrifice, inspiring and determined Aleyna-Joy Tatuava-Taripo, 34, has triumphed in law after being admitted to the bar in the Cook Islands High Court last week.

“I’m grateful to be back home on the island and to serve our community,” she said.

Chief Justice Patrick Keane presided over the admission for Tatuava-Taripo and Tom White, who are both Crown Counsel at the Crown Law Office, as well as for Sally Wyatt, chief economist at Ministry of Finance and Economic Management, on Friday.

After her first child was born, Tatuava-Taripo navigated the challenges of parenthood while pursuing tertiary studies which she initially started in 2009, but only returned to full-time study in 2018.

Balancing the joys and challenges of raising her children Jethro Parangi, now 17 years old, and Aio Exham, 7, Tatuava-Taripo never lost sight of her dreams.

In September 2021, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Sociology) and Bachelor of Law. Two years later in September 2023, she graduated with a Master of Laws (Merit) from the University of Auckland.

Tatuava-Taripo has now returned home with her husband and children ready to serve and make an impact using her legal expertise.

She had her eldest child while still in her final year of school.

“For young mothers out there, there are the challenges being a mum, but my children are also a big motivating factor for me,” said Tatuava-Taripo.

“Being a mother for me was a big driving force. I did start studies when I had my eldest son but stopped along the way for personal reasons.”
When her second child was about 17 months old, she decided to resume her studies full-time.

“Even though the process has taken long, I want to encourage our mothers to just go ahead and give it a go, to persevere.”

While living in Perth, Australia, she had initially pursued social work in child protection, wanting to help people in some way. However, she realised that this wasn’t the right field for her.

“I wanted to have an impact that’s more substantial and I felt like law was the place.”

Her research for her Masters focused on issues affecting people in the Cook Islands as well as Pacific Islanders overseas, which has always been her area of interest.

“But at the moment I want to learn more… as well as looking into talks about land law reform.

“For me this law degree is not about me, it’s about serving others, serving our community, giving back. I’m really keen to help out.”

She has heard that lawyer’s fees are quite excessive and has always intended to make legal services more affordable and accessible for people.

“Not only land law but in every facet as well, such as using technology seeing how we can better improve our systems so we can go through the court much more quickly.”

Working at Crown Law, Tatuava-Taripo is eager to learn and absorb everything, determined to use her knowledge to benefit the community.

“I’m very grateful to have gotten over the line, very grateful to my parents who been a huge support from the beginning as well as my husband, Aunty Ura (Tangaroa) and so many people and close friends.”

Tatuava-Taripo acknowledges the Ministry of Education for supporting her studies.

“I thank God for helping me get through the process especially my final year during 2020,” said Tatuava-Taripo.

“The main thing for me is to give back to my island, my people.”

Her proud parents, Helen and Eugene Tatuava, her siblings, and other family members attended the admission ceremony.

Her mother, Helen, said: “She achieved this while raising her two sons. It took a long time, but she never gave up. That’s a testament to young mothers – even though you have children young, don’t let that stop you. Keep persevering.”

Tom White, Crown Counsel at the Crown Law Office, celebrated his admittance to the bar surrounded by his “island family”. MELINA ETCHES/23030405

Tom White first came to Rarotonga with his family in 2019 and fell in love with the place.

“I thought I’d love to come back one day and live here, and here I am,” White said. “It’s a privilege to be given such a wonderful opportunity.”

“I’m really looking forward to being in this space and get to contribute and do some good here.”