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Otago’s Hui Poutama inspires academics and students

Tuesday 19 May 2015 8:39pm

Associate Professor Suzanne Pitama, Director of the Maori/Indigenous Health Institute at the University's Christchurch campus speaks at the Hui Poutama last week. Photo: Emma Allen.

The University of Otago’s Hui Poutama 2015, held late last week in Dunedin, was a great success, says one of the event’s organisers Associate Professor Jacinta Ruru, from the Faculty of Law.

With the theme of collaboration, the Māori Research Symposium was a two-day opportunity for Otago’s Māori academics and postgraduate students to showcase their research to colleagues and peers, as well as the wider community.

"The breadth and depth of this research is impressive, considering Māori academics constitute less than 3 percent of academic staff numbers at Otago."

“I loved it. It was so exciting and inspiring to listen to a sample of research from Māori academics from across different disciplines. I feel more connected and inspired in my own research,” Associate Professor Ruru told Bulletin Board.

“We had an excellent turn out for both days, with many people visiting to learn about the research we are doing. It was great to hear how all of our Māori researchers are collaborating in conducting their research, be it with other researchers within their own departments or divisions, or across different divisions, or with national or international researchers and communities.

“The breadth and depth of this research is impressive, considering Māori academics constitute less than 3 percent of academic staff numbers at Otago. I made a call for a national commitment for tertiary institutions to accept the challenge to plan for 100 Māori Professors by 2025 to help address the critical mass issue.”

In Associate Professor Ruru’s own words, some of the highlights were:

Head of Universities New Zealand/Te Pōkai Tara, Chris Whelan, opened Hui Poutama with an excellent, relevant and engaging discussion on what makes good research, which, he told the audience, is research that makes a difference in someone's life.

Dr Anne-Marie Jackson from Otago’s School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences gave a passionate presentation that the University of Otago should create new tenured career pathways for more Māori academics. Her presentation received a standing ovation.

Associate Professor Suzanne Pitama of the Christchurch campus concluded day one of Hui Poutama with a stunning talk using the analogy of making decisions in the marae kitchen to working with colleagues in collaborative research.

Dr Karyn Paringatai from Te Tumu opened day two with a jolt; she plunged the room into darkness and demonstrated the effectiveness of a new teaching method of teaching in the dark. This was really effective and inspiring.

Associate Professor Merata Kawharu of Research and Enterprise spoke about her forthcoming research that has studied the different styles of iwi leadership.

Dr Michael Stevens from Otago’s History and Art History Department took us on a wonderful historical journey to Bluff.

Christina McKerchar from Otago’s Department of Population Health at the Christchurch campus shared with us new world-leading research techniques to gain an insight into what and how our tamariki (children) are eating - the placing of webcams on the children that take a photo every eight seconds for four days.

Dr Reremoana Theodore from Otago’s National Centre for Lifecourse Research spoke with one of her collaborators from Te Pou Tiringa (the governance body of Te Kōpae Piripono) in New Plymouth, Erana Hond-Flavell, about their collaborative research underway. Erana said her community had "hit the jackpot" in partnering with Reremoana and Otago - a wonderful compliment.

But it was the Māori postgraduate students that really showed the academics how to present research! Under the leadership of Dr Paringatai, six students presented their thesis work in three minutes each to a totally rapt audience.

Co-organiser Janine Kapa-Blair and I thank the University for providing us the opportunity to host Hui Poutama and we thank members of the Organising Committee, our wonderful administrator, Marcelle Wharerau, and staff at the Office of Māori Development for their critical support.