Thursday 19 July 2018 9:30pm
Three Otago Geographers were celebrated at last week's New Zealand Geographical Society awards ceremony. Jerram Bateman (left) won Best Doctoral Thesis, Professor Michelle Thompson-Fawcett (centre) was awarded the 2018 Distinguished New Zealand Geographer Award and Medal, and Professor Etienne Nel (right) received an award for Service to the Geographical Society.
An Otago Geographer has received the New Zealand Geographical Society’s (NZGS) highest honour, in recognition of her work in Māori and Indigenous geography, iwi resource management and development and planning.
Professor Michelle Thompson-Fawcett was awarded the 2018 Distinguished New Zealand Geographer Award and Medal during the joint NZGS and Institute of Australian Geographers conference in Auckland last Friday.
The award also recognised her ongoing commitment to collaboration and working with communities who benefit from research partnerships, and her inclusive, relevant and engaging teaching.
"Spotlighting the work through this award is a means of recognising the value of the indigenous kaupapa/purpose and also the colleagues, students and communities who collaborate on it."
Professor Thompson-Fawcett says it is wonderful to have her work celebrated.
“The work, which I undertake with others, focuses primarily on the issues and opportunities that come with diversity and diverse ways of knowing, particularly in regard to indigenous contexts.
“For me, the politics of identity, place, power and injustice – linked to the control of space, especially in a colonial setting – are some of the most compellingly important topics to scrutinise.
“Spotlighting the work through this award is a means of recognising the value of the indigenous kaupapa/purpose and also the colleagues, students and communities who collaborate on it.”
Professor Thompson-Fawcett was one of three Otago staff celebrated at the awards.
Professor Etienne Nel received an award for Service to the Geographical Society, while recent PhD graduate Dr Jerram Bateman was awarded Best Doctoral Thesis.
Dr Bateman, who is currently working as a Research Fellow in the University’s Cancer Society Social and Behavioural Research Unit, was supervised by Professor Nel and Professor Tony Binns.
"The PhD journey can at times be quite insular ... so this recognition is a reminder that the research itself was worthwhile and valued, and not just a mechanism to gain a PhD qualification."
His thesis explored continuity and change in rural livelihoods in Panguma and Kayima, two small and remote communities in Sierra Leone, West Africa, over a 40 year period, in order to identify some of the key priorities and challenges for future development in these communities.
He says receiving this recognition “means a lot” as it represents the validation of his research by his peers.
“The PhD journey can at times be quite insular, and the realities of the job market on the other side can be quite disheartening, so this recognition is a reminder that the research itself was worthwhile and valued, and not just a mechanism to gain a PhD qualification.
“It is also something I can share with all those in Panguma and Kayima (and other parts of Sierra Leone) who contributed so much to my research, showing them that their contribution was worthwhile, and that people have taken notice.
“In that sense, I hope this award can help me to further promote the findings from my research in the coming months, and perhaps even be used as leverage to help improve livelihood outcomes in Panguma and Kayima in the future.”
"I have learnt a lot through the process and it is very pleasing to note that the journal's scores have increased in recent years."
Professor Nel’s award recognises his seven years (from 2011 to early 2018) as Managing Editor and Chair of the Editorial Board of the society's journal, The New Zealand Geographer.
He says working with a team of editors, the production staff at the publisher's and with many dozens or authors and reviewers has been both a challenging and a rewarding experience.
“I have learnt a lot through the process and it is very pleasing to note that the journal's scores have increased in recent years.”
Professor Thompson-Fawcett says Otago’s Department of Geography has a long history of connection with the NZGS and working hard to profile geographical issues and potential futures, both nationally and internationally.
“Several current members of staff have been acknowledged with NZGS awards over the years for such things as their service, supervision, research, and international impact.”