Opening Statement from Te Wharepora Hou
Over the past week we have posted commentaries from Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith about the decision to not continue the funding for Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga, the National Māori Centre of Research Excellence. Our reason for supporting and utilising social media to share these commentaries is because we believe that Māori research, and in particular Kaupapa Māori research, has a critical role to play in Māori aspirations for wellbeing and development. Many research initiatives that have been led through those who spent endless hours of work and struggle to develop Ngā Pae and then through the many research, community, iwi and academic programmes that have come to fruition and been supported by the innovative approaches taken by Ngā Pae. This the third comment from Professor Smith comes in the form of providing ideas and reflection in terms of how we can voice support for Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga. Where there is, undoubtedly, much discussion taking place through a range of political processes it is important that those of us who have had direct contact with, and benefit from the projects undertaken since 2002 under the auspices of Ngā Pae are able to have our voices heard. That is the aim of this comment.
Nā Dr Leonie Pihama & Marama Davidson for Te Wharepora Hou
A comment on Taking Action by Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith
Thank you for the support that has been received for the commentaries on Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga. Many of you have been outraged by the news and have been shocked, depressed or angered. I have to admit I went through those emotions too and then I sat back and examined what the larger consequences would be.
As you know I am not one to engage in public commentary, my on-line skills and manners are not well developed, it takes me a long time to write and my work life is just too crazy busy to pause. What has compelled me to do this is that I think it would be a scandalous waste to dismantle Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga, that too much hard work will have gone down the drain, that Māori intellectual potential will be squished, that other related good stuff will be destroyed and that it will set Māori research back 30 years.
I have not spent my career studying the institution of research and what it has taken for Māori and indigenous people to engage in that institution just to sit back and watch a key platform be dismantled.
I also know how hard it is to win funding for research that uses Mātauranga Māori, that employs Māori methodologies and that focuses on Māori development and that is despite the policy of Vision Mātauranga. However it is clear that ‘Vision Mātauranga’ is usually given a once over lightly glance in most research proposals and assessments, and it is also clear that many international reviewers don’t have the knowledge to assess it. Given these critical issues it is nearly impossible for Māori to build an infrastructure.
Many of you are asking what more you can do to assist. Researchers are generally optimistic and tenacious so I think there are always solutions to be found, or, perhaps it’s just that I am optimistic and tenacious! Your support to convince others to seek those solutions is essential. Here are a range of ideas for those who wish to show active support.
1. To our international scholars: We need both formal letters of support addressed to the relevant New Zealand Government Ministers of Tertiary Education, Education and Māori Affairs and open comment and postings on line including your reflections on the impact of Ngā Pae on your work and how you see Ngā Pae’s accomplishments and contribution to the wider International Indigenous community.
2. To Māori scholars: Letters of support addressed both to Ministers and to the Tertiary Education Commission is critical for your voice to be heard. You may also be involved as the Māori element in other CoREs which is fine so was I but have no doubt that Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga is the tuakana, the ‘Mothership’ so to speak and has far more experience as an established CoRE.
3. To Social Media experts: Some of you are excellent in the on line environment so I encourage you to use your creative skills. I think the Jumbunna group in Sydney with Professor Larissa Berendt and Jason De Santolo may start some small video testimonies – they are working on something.
4. To our MAI participants, both former and current: Your voices really matter so it would help to talk about how you finished your studies and where your career is now.
5. To our Iwi and community colleagues who have engaged in collaborations: It would help to talk about the quality of those engagements and the outcomes of the research as you see it.
6. To our allies and supporters: Your influence matters as well and showing support would demonstrate that Ngā Pae has extended it’s reach and engaged many others in its programmes.
What is important is that we work together to highlight the significant contribution towards Māori wellbeing and Māori Development made by Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga to whānau, hapū, Iwi, Māori Development across all sectors of our society. The focus on research excellence, on transformative research, on making a difference within Aotearoa, on training and enhancing professional capacity are critical to the wellbeing of this country. Those are things that need to be communicated to those who are making these decisions, and to encourage and motivate them to not only revisit this decision but to reverse it in the best interests of ensuring that research development in this country continues to move in ways that ensure meaningful involvement of all communities, including tangata whenua.
Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Porou)
CNZM BA Dip Tch MA (Hons) PhD Auckland
Pro Vice-Chancellor Māori
Senior Advisor – Te Kotahi Research Institute
Dean – School of Māori and Pacific Development
Professor of Education and Māori Development