Dhamendra Unka

'There are huge amounts of opportunities for Law graduates in wild and varying roles...'

  • Dhamendra Unka

(Te Rarawa)

Bachelor of Laws

Studying towards a Master of Laws

When choosing which university to study Law in after high school, Dhamendra was determined to go outside of his comfort zone and study in a new city away from his hometown Whangarei.

‘I wanted to challenge myself and make sure that as a person I grew so I was looking for a university further away from home and one where I did not have any family or friends close by,’ he says.

Dhamendra visited Christchurch and UC for the first time during his sister’s graduation and knew that he had found the perfect place to challenge his independence.

‘When it came to choosing a University I had some strict requirements of what I needed from my campus. I needed to be outside of my comfort zone, I needed to be well supported by my institution and I needed to be able to get out and explore an interesting, dynamic and changing place. Canterbury ticked those boxes for me. It is a well-equipped single site university, the campus was large but very welcoming, and there is a huge amount of student support with the Learning Skills Centre and the Health Centre.’

Law was always Dhamendra’s first choice of study.

‘Law is the most dynamic and constantly changing thing I know,’ he says. ‘It governs every waking aspect of our lives and affects every interaction we have with anyone. The law is the very root of our modern democratic society and it’s integral to everything we know. Without the law to govern and regulate how society works we would not have most of the things we enjoy.’

Dhamendra thoroughly enjoyed his undergraduate study at UC and involved himself in the Māori student community. He was a Treasurer for Te Putairiki Māori Law Students’ Association throughout his study as well as a Mentor and Tutor for one of their first-year courses. He was also a Mentor for the Māori Development Team supporting other Māori students.

Dhamendra was successful in his academic pursuits as well, receiving the Allens Educational Trust Scholarship for his first year, the Maori Educational Trust Scholarship and later a Canterbury Law bursary.

However after graduating with his Bachelor of Laws and beginning work at a law firm, Dhamendra found that he was unhappy with his chosen branch of law and wanted to follow his interests more closely.

‘Working in this firm was to be my big moment when finally I would see the results of my legal education. I enjoyed my work at the firm and got a lot of useful experience and insights into my future career. However something was missing and I was not finding the workload enjoyable. I decided that I needed to look at what I wanted from my future career and whether I was actually engaging my interests properly. I realised that I studied the papers in law I thought would get me a sensible and stable job, however, my interests lay in public law.

‘I started looking at my options for the future and decided that I wanted a public law based role preferably within government. I decided that I needed to take action and engage this interest before it was too late and that made me apply for master’s.’

Returning for postgraduate study has been a good decision for Dhamendra, becoming a Ngāi Tahu Research Centre Scholarship recipient.

Dhamendra is pleased that UC is still the peaceful and supportive environment he came to enjoy during undergraduate study.

‘There is a huge amount of different and interesting people on campus, including students and lecturers who you get to engage with. Due to the University’s size you get to know your community well and I enjoy being part of this supportive whanau-orientated community,’ he says.

He urges Law students to ‘keep your options open’ when it comes to thinking of a career path.

‘Don’t just have your mind set on practising law in a firm,’ he says. ‘There are huge amounts of opportunities for Law graduates in wild and varying roles.’

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