Brothers’ triple treat | Born within minutes of each other, graduate on the same day

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The brothers with Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban. Picture: ENZ/ TE HERENGA WAKA—Victoria University of Wellington

Identical triplets graduate with law degrees on the very same day.

Cale, Max and Jackson Tu’inukuafe, who are of Tongan heritage through their father, all graduated from the Victoria University of Wellington this week.

Triplets are rare and according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine identical triplets only occur once in every 10,000 births.

Middle brother Max says its a special bond that they share.

“It’s a closeness in relationship – it’s like a higher version of brothers. We’ve been together since day one so we’re very close,” he said.

In Tongan, triplets are known as Mahanga Tolu – literal translation “twin three”.

The Auckland-based Tu’inukuafe trio all wanted to study law and decided to all move down together to study at Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University as it provided something new.

The brothers have an inseparable bond of support but they were also competitive.

“We’re always constantly grinding to get on top of each other, but at the end of the day, we all end up being pretty even,” said Max.

“Yeah no, we’re extremely competitive with each other,” said the youngest of the three, Jackson.

“We have our ups and downs because we clash with each other…but we’re still pretty good friends,” he added.

The quirks of triplets

Being identical triplets had its quirks with many unable to tell the difference.

“We’ve gotten used to seeing people that our brothers know but that we don’t know – we act like we know them because one of our brothers might be friends with them,” Jackson said.

Having three lookalikes on the rugby pitch would pose an intimidating presence with the brothers looking out for each other when they play.

“There’s been a few years where we played on the same rugby team,” said Max

“If anything happened to one of us, the other two would go over and help him out – it was pretty good, playing with my brothers,” he added.

A celebration of Pasifika achievement

The triplet’s graduation was a cause for celebration for the Pasifika Hub at Victoria University, a designated Pasifika team that aims to improve representation and support for staff and students.

Pasifika are under-represented in law in New Zealand, so having three enter the legal arena at the same time was quite a feat.

The trio are now pursuing careers as lawyers and working for firms in Auckland.

“It’s a really proud feeling that we can represent our Tongan heritage and hopefully encourage young pasifika to pursue a tertiary degree,” said Cale.

“We had a very Palangi upbringing but are very proud of our Tongan heritage,” he added.

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