Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Associate Professor Anne-Marie Jackson - winner's profile

Friday 4 September 2020 9:20am

Associate Professor Anne-Marie Jackson image
Associate Professor Anne-Marie Jackson is joint winner of the 2020 University of Otago Rowheath Trust Award and Carl Smith Medal.

Māori Physical Education and Health kairangahau (researcher) Associate Professor Anne-Marie Jackson (Ngāti Whātua, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu o Whangaroa, Ngāti Wai), has been named joint winner of the 2020 University of Otago Rowheath Trust Award and Carl Smith Medal.

The award is given to recognise outstanding research performance of early career staff and this year Associate Professor Jackson shares the award with geneticist Dr Louise Bicknell.

Anne-Marie studies how connections of wai (water), moana (ocean), and mātauranga (Māori knowledge) are beneficial for mauri ora (flourishing health), and she strives to create opportunities for Māori research excellence that, most significantly of all, serves Māori communities. 

In researching about the late Sir Carl Smith and his family’s establishment of the Rowheath Trust, Anne-Marie learnt that he spent a significant amount of time in the south, was involved in various community activities and had strong connections to the University of Otago.

“I like the connection that I was also born and raised in the south, and all of my study and career to date has been at the University of Otago, a place where I have a strong connection to.

“Winning this award is more significant because of the importance in my own career on service and community through research excellence, which I hope encapsulates some of the spirit of the intent of the award.”

Anne-Marie grew up in rural Southland, and with a Māori and non-Māori parent both working in shearing gangs, experienced first-hand the opportunities and the challenges her family faced.

“I learnt lots of things about work ethic, community and service but also the negative parts that came with being Māori at that time which included racism.

“I saw how Mum navigated those challenges and she was unfailing in supporting my sister and I through school and to get an education.”

It was at boarding school in Invercargill that Anne-Marie was further inspired by teachers, including her chemistry teacher who embraced creativity and curiosity and would allow experiments (“which would be banned today!”) to be conducted.

“Winning this award is more significant because of the importance in my own career on service and community through research excellence, which I hope encapsulates some of the spirit of the intent of the award.”

Her love of sport, combined with learning about anatomy and physiology, as well as the arts, led Anne-Marie to enrol at the School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Science and eventually earn a Doctorate.

Just after receiving her PhD at a Māori graduation ceremony which Anne-Marie arrived at without her regalia, that she learnt a valuable lesson which has stayed with her since.

“Aunt Pearl from the Māori Centre gave me a tune up and told me to put my gown on, get over myself, that this wasn’t about me, that I would be sitting in the front row and I would be speaking.

“The point was there might be a student, kid, or whānau member that sees me, and they can see themselves standing right where I am.

“This is what it means for me in winning this award and the medal, that it is a pathway for someone else like me to realise their potential in research.”

Anne-Marie started as a lecturer in the School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences in 2011, and co-founded kaupapa of Te Koronga with Dr Hauiti Hakopa.

She now co-leads Te Koronga with Dr Chanel Phillips and Mr Danny Poa as a vibrant research kaupapa with excellent graduate research students, researchers and communities interested in mauri ora.

Mauri ora and hauora (health) is the core thread that binds Anne-Marie’s many strands of mahi, and which connects theory and application through working with Māori communities and “getting our hands dirty.”

She co-leads two other research programmes: Te Tiaki Mahinga Kai (customary fisheries) and Tangaroa Ara Rau (Māori Water Safety), the later involving the development of a free Māori water safety programme that strengthens whānau connection to the water. This work is funded from the Health Research Council where she works alongside researchers and communities around Aotearoa.

It is these research programmes that encapsulate the interface and connections between Anne-Marie’s teaching, research and community-based mahi.

Her most recent research collaboration Coastal People: Southern Skies brings together education, government, and community partners across Aotearoa, and focuses on the changes resulting from ocean warming and acidification, sea-level rise, and climate and how these issues affect our identities, histories and wellbeing as coastal people.

“Climate change is the biggest issue we are facing so we need holistic thinkers who can address such questions.”

Anne-Marie says physical education has nurtured a broad base of theoretical and applied skills that can be applied to these challenges, and which includes the ability to adapt to constantly changing situations.

Last year Anne-Marie’s research was also recognised with the Royal Society Te Apārangi’s Te Kōpūnui Māori Research Award for research forging new knowledge at the interface of mātauranga Māori and physical sciences.

She has also recently received a national Tertiary Teaching Excellence award in the Kaupapa Māori category from Ako Aotearoa for her sustained excellence in teaching, and Anne-Marie believes the key to this success is understanding her own why.

“I’m hugely passionate about my research which is what I teach on, so I think this enthusiasm is maybe part of the success. But I love seeing students develop their own passion and enthusiasm and then become engaged to go out into the world and do something about it in a practical way too.”

“It’s important I provide leadership as well as capability building for Māori research and researchers by making sure we walk our talk and deliver.”

However, it’s that deep connection and relationships with people and place that continues to drive Anne-Marie’s mahi.

“I think back to all the barriers Mum faced and had to deal with, many of which are still experienced by us, and by our Māori communities today.

“For us, the more important evaluation of our work is from those communities whom we work directly with, to ensure we are accountable to them, to our own whānau and to ourselves.” 

Kōrero by Guy Frederick, Communications Adviser (Sciences)