Brothers graduate to achieve dream of higher education

21 Aug, 2017
Brothers Nanai Viellani Manutoipule Lale Peteru and Chesed Punialava'a Lale Peteru picked up degrees and sang at their own graduation ceremony recently.

Usually students graduating are lucky enough to witness performances from The Oceanian Voices choir during their graduation ceremonies, but at the most recent Business School graduation, two brothers got to pick up their degrees and entertain their fellow graduates.

Nanai Viellani Manutoipule Lale Peteru and Chesed Punialava'a Lale Peteru both graduated with a Bachelor of Business just before performing medley of songs from Moana (including We know the way and How far I’ll go) beside soloist Fa’ava Tuigamala at their own graduation ceremony.

Born and raised in Samoa, the Lale Peteru family migrated to New Zealand in 2014 for better opportunities in education which has now been realised for the two brothers, says Viellani.

“Family has always been a driver for both of us: our parents, our sister, our partners and my son. We were born and raised in a collective society where we were brought up always looking after our own.”

Viellani, the eldest sibling, says he has always had a passion for knowledge, but when his family moved to New Zealand in 2004, he began work to help provide for his family.

“I came to AUT in 2012 because I knew I had a brain and I wanted to be my own boss,” says Viellani.

Punialava'a says his own story of education has been a journey.

“Growing up, I never liked school. I missed a lot of my education, even in primary school. I worked in labour jobs but I realised I needed education to get further,” says Punialava'a.

“I struggled in my first year here at AUT. I failed half my papers. Not from a lack of attendance or trying as I attended every lecture and every tutorial but I knew I had to work extra hard so I went to my lecturers and got the extra help from the services at AUT.”

“I am so happy and grateful for this experience,” says Viellani. “I'm so proud of my brother. I am happier for him than I am for myself. Our degrees will give us a better future for our families.”

Aside from their time in the Oceanian Voices choir, the brothers are part of the well-known family-centred band, Punialava'a, founded by their father in Samoa in 1968.  The band is expecting to release a new album later this year.

“A lot of New Zealand-born Samoans will tell me about their experiences growing up listening to our music. Our music has a sense of nostalgia, but it is evolving over time through the generations of our family.”

And as newly-confirmed graduates, both Viellani and Punialava'a plan on advancing their knowledge through postgraduate study with AUT.

Watch their performance here.

About the Oceanian Voices choir

The Oceanian Voices choir was formed by over 80 AUT students and is led by award-winning choirmaster Igelese Ete. The choir performed a diverse range of songs in genre and languages including Samoan, Hindi, Korean and English, at all five winter graduation ceremonies.