Wednesday 14 November 2018 11:27am
Professor Merata Kawharu says her Inaugural Professorial Lecture “Making the Strange Familiar” – to be held at the Dunedin Campus on 14 November – will address an important disconnect: while Māori communities are increasingly moving into social and economic innovation they still face the realities of negative statistics in all areas of well-being.
“Like any community, other things concern them, including big challenges facing humanity like climate change. Treaty claim settlements are also a significant defining issue of modern times for Māori and New Zealand,” she says.
Professor Kawharu (Ngāti Whatua, Ngāpuhi) has been Associate Professor of Research and prior to this, as a Rhodes Scholar, completed her DPhil in Social Anthropology on kaitiakitanga in 1998.
Later this week she will feature in a Division of Humanities article on her recent Marsden Fund grant success, and recently receiving $605,000 to progress her project entitled A question of identity: how connected are Māori youth to ancestral marae, and does it matter?
“The grant will provide an opportunity to hear what young Māori today say about ancestral marae and then look at strengthening connections that are meaningful to them and to home communities. The grant will also be an awesome opportunity to support a PHD programme concerning Māori community development, youth and identity,” she says.
She has dedicated her academic life to addressing some of these issues, and more recently has developed models of entrepreneurship along with Professor Paul Tapsell. Professor Kawharu has also written extensively on cultural knowledge and marae, also working on national boards and work with the UN, UNESCO and leaders in world heritage. A former Director of the James Henare Centre, Merata has won various awards for her publications and community work, including the MNZM for services to Māori education.
Her research activities have over-arching themes of supporting Māori leadership, community and education. This was expressed with the 2014 release of her edited book, Maranga Mai! - Te Reo and Marae in crisis?
In 2012, she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for her services to Māori education.
Professor Kawharu says she comes from a family where education is highly valued, but grounded in reality, leading her to always keep in mind her father’s advice to think about the practical use of what you do, or in other words, ask ‘so what?’