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Lack of diversity in NZ universities and science research institutes create 'unsafe space' for Māori and Pasifika

The science sector has created an "alarming" and "unsafe space" for Māori and Pasifika, according to an Auckland scientist.

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Dr Tara McAllister is the lead author, alongside Dr Sereana Naepi, of a report about the lack of Māori and Pasifika represented in the workforce. Source: Breakfast

University of Auckland's Dr Tara McAllister is the lead author, alongside Dr Sereana Naepi, of a report released today which identifies the lack of Māori and Pasifika represented in the science workforce.

The report says New Zealand's science system will never reach its full potential with the current lack of Māori and Pasifika.

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Study blasts NZ universities, research institutes for dearth of Māori, Pasifika scientists

They say, according to data collected from 2008 to 2018, the two groups are "severely underrepresented" in New Zealand universities and Crown-research institutes.

Speaking of her own experience on TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning, Dr McAllister said after her eight years at university she "couldn't get away from universities fast enough".

"You know that it's a really unsafe space being a Māori academic in a science department," she said.

"Often you may be the only one, you may be asked to tokenistically help colleagues with funding in regards to Māori communities, you may be asked to do the karakia and anything essentially Māori, so it doesn't seem like a particularly safe space to be."

She said some workplaces had Māori science teams within the larger institution.

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Researchers say the lack of diversity at NZ universities and Crown research institutes threatens the potential of our science workforce. Source: 1 NEWS

"For me that seems like a much better place to be. We know that Māori academics being around other Māori academics is really important for job satisfaction so if you plug one Māori person into a predominantly Pākehā department then they're not going to have a fun time essentially."

Dr Naepi added that Māori and Pasifika people had a lot to offer the science sector.

"We need to reframe how we think about science," she said.

"If we think about Pacific people, for instance, living on the islands, they were engaging in longitudinal observational studies, we knew about climate change before mainstream scientists were starting to talk about it.

"If we were engaging with Māori and Pasifika who know these things we'd get more information about our world's biggest problems right now.

"We're worried about antibiotic resistance - what were Pacific people using for antibiotics before colonisation?

"We had an entire knowledge system and if we bring this knowledge system into our current knowledge system we can all benefit."