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New book tells powerful stories of Māori academics' triumphs and challenges in NZ's universities

The powerful stories of 24 Māori academics, who have faced both triumph and challenge across New Zealand’s universities in Western-dominated disciplines of knowledge, have been collated in a new book. 

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Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga editors Jacinta Ruru and Linda Waimarie say the book details both the good and “deep hurt” some Māori academics felt. Source: Breakfast

Editors Jacinta Ruru (Raukawa, Ngāti Ranginui) from the University of Otago and Linda Waimarie (Tūhoe, Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti) from the University of Auckland said they hoped Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga could inspire the next generation of academics. 

Waimarie said the book celebrated people’s careers, but also reflected on the “little parts around the edges that can change and improve”.

“As academics, everyone is engaged in working with and nurturing and grooming young minds. That in my mind is a sacred relationship.”

But, for many Māori students, “we tend not to be noticed early. We tend not to be supported early”, she said.

Waimarie said universities need to better recognise these students’ potential and give them space to explore their knowledge. 

“It’s not a hard thing to do, but we have to make an effort.”

Ruru echoed the sentiment, saying universities needed to call this out and continue the “decolonisation” of academia and better use the deep knowledge and history of Māori. 

She said as a Māori student decades ago, “we were really noticing Māori absence within the university, noticing very rarely were we taught by Māori”.

“I’m really horrified that that’s still happening for many of our students coming into universities today.”

That feeling continued on in her career, with Ruru recalling the time she was a “lonely only Māori law academic” at Otago University, which left her “intellectually lonely”. 

This was a common theme in the book, and many academics said they felt a "deep hurt" despite their success, she said. 

“Many of them talk about falling in love with their discipline … but then really wondering what is their place within that discipline.”

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Ruru said it wasn’t good enough that only about five per cent of academic staff at universities in the country were Māori.

“We want more and more Māori coming into the universities. We want all of our New Zealand students having that opportunity to learn from Māori scholars.”

The book launched last night in Wellington’s Te Papa.