Scholar’s desire to redress inequalities

posted: 8:00 pm - 7th July 2019
fulbright nz

(Picture caption: United States Ambassador Scott Brown, Dylan Asafo, and the Rt Hon Winston Peters, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the Fulbright New Zealand Awards Ceremony. Photo LawFuel.) 

A desire to understand and redress society’s worst inequalities is what drives University of Auckland academic Fuimaono (Dylan) Asafo.

With this in mind, the 26-year-old Teaching Fellow from Auckland Law School is heading to Massachusetts next month assisted by a Fulbright Scholarship, where he is set to undertake a Masters of Law at Harvard, looking at Critical Race Theory and Minority Rights.

Of Samoan heritage, Dylan was named a Fulbright New Zealand General Graduate Award winner at a ceremony held in Wellington in June.

The United States Fulbright Awards are valued up to US$40,000 (plus NZ$4,000 travel funding), and are for promising New Zealand graduate students to undertake postgraduate study or research at US institutions in any field.

Dylan graduated with a Bachelor of Laws (LLB)/Bachelor of Health Science (BHs) conjoint in 2017 from the University of Auckland and an LLM (First Class Hons) from the University of Auckland in 2019.

Several years ago, he began tutoring Law students and he is the former President of the Pacific Islands’ Law Students Association.

Dylan also helped establish the MALOSI Project (Movement for Action and Law to Overcome Social Injustice).

He credits his mum Liliu Faletoese Asafo for influencing his choices.

“Mum left her village of Siumu, in Samoa, when she was 19 to take up a nursing scholarship in New Zealand,” Dylan says.

“She has always been interested in the Law as well as healthcare – and I combined these topics of study for my undergraduate degree because they are both areas that have failed Pacific people.”

One component of Dylan’s new area of study, Critical Race Theory, will see him analyse race and racism from a legal point of view.

“Critical Race Theory recognises that racism is engrained in the fabric of society and is pervasive in dominant culture, including its laws,” Dylan explains.

“Many systems in New Zealand fail minority groups, particularly Māori and Pacific people.

“It is vitally important we do more than just acknowledge this – we need the tools to identify the socially constructed framework that upholds injustice, in order for us to bring about change.”