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Understanding the nature of inter-disciplinary Māori Studies and its contribution to Māori development


The Terms of Reference for the Forum, as agreed by TKA, are attached as Appendix 1 to this report. The forum proceeded upon a proposed tenet that Māori student numbers in Māori Studies had declined as Mātauranga Māori knowledge had increased in other disciplines. Several related questions were also suggested through the Terms of Reference to be considered at the Forum, including:

  • What is the domain and nature of inter-disciplinary Māori Studies?
    What is the methodology that can be brought to bear to this inter-disciplinary endeavour?
  • How will Māori Studies complement the emerging knowledge(s) within Māoridom?
  • What opportunities exist for universities to collaborate in future developments with respect to assessing and researching the agreed domain and nature of inter-disciplinary Māori Studies?


The facilitator, Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith, prepared four questions that provided the structure for the proceedings.

  1. What are the challenges and urgent work (in Māori Studies) that should be done now?
  2. What is non-urgent but is looming on the horizon and will be urgent in 5 years time?
  3. What is Māori Studies?
  4. What could be the future potential/design of Māori Studies?
  5. What are the opportunities for Māori Studies?

Challenges and urgent work for Māori Studies

Māori student numbers
Māori and Indigenous Studies at Canterbury and Victoria challenged the fundamental assumption that Māori students were choosing other disciplines because there was a wider proliferation of mātauranga Māori. Figures from both universities suggested the following reasons for the decline in Māori student numbers in university Māori Studies over the last decade (See Appendix 3 – Report from Aotahi UoC):

  • There is more outside completion from wānanga and Polytechs.
  • Māori students are making career based decisions to study in other areas, but still wish to study Māori Studies but are prevented from doing so by restrictive degree regulations in faculties that do not recognise the value of mātauranga Māori.
  • Other disciplines are reluctant to collaborate with Māori Studies.

Connecting with hapū and iwi
Some Forum participants noted a perceived disconnect between some current Māori graduates and the Māori communities that they are trying to serve. Concern was also expressed about the quality of the contribution to Māori Studies and mātauranga Māori by students, which in turn affects graduate contributions to their Māori communities.

Te Reo and Tikanga
An issue for Māori Studies in the future is the need to increase and encourage Māori student access to Māori Studies where te reo and tikanga are taught and practiced. If Māori graduates are to be adequately prepared to participate professionally in both Māori and Pākehā worlds, these students need to be competent in te reo and tikanga Māori, enough to be able to think in Māori as well as write it.

Quality scholarship
The Forum identified that to respond to this urgent need and produce quality scholarship, Māori Studies should consider:

  • What aspects of te reo should, and should not, to be taught at universities?
  • How does Māori Studies meet the needs of Māori students (particularly) in their first year?
  • How does Māori Studies refine its niche or point of difference within universities?
  • How does Māori Studies build its relationship with other faculties that teach or study Māori content?
  • How to continue to broaden the disciplinary areas within Māori Studies?
  • How to define the curriculum according to principles relevant to Tiriti.

Mātauranga Māori
Some Forum participants suggested that Māori Studies is the custodian of mātauranga Māori which implicitly includes having to organise and contribute to the building of Māori knowledge. Given the diversity of Māori Studies' scholars, scholarship and research, one positive strategy is to focus on some commonalities, including:

  • developing a systematic way to index mātauranga Māori
  • ordering Māori knowledge through whakapapa
  • using te puna o mātauranga as the source of future Māori scholarship
  • documenting Māori cultural practice
  • understanding our point of difference
  • take the opportunity to formalise disciplines in accordance with mātauranga Māori

A practical use of having mātauranga Māori available through such an indexed system would be to support how to respond to the ever increasing demands of the public to comment on cultural practices.

One of the goals for Māori Studies that was articulated by Forum participants is that it prepares future generations to be able to provide service to Māori communities. As such, Māori Studies needs to assert its unique place within academic institutions, and differentiate issues of academic discipline and growth from institutional development for Māori Studies. To do this would dispel some of the negative assumptions about Māori Studies such as it being 'a bit on the side'. It would also allow Māori Studies to strategically and effectively influence University governance and management, better respond to student need, and promote the ongoing engagement of Māori Studies with hapū, iwi and Māori communities.

At a practical level, Māori Studies also needs to have a good working relationship with the marketing and recruitment sections of their respective institutions.

Other challenges

  • The place of new technology in Māori Studies.
  • Succession planning in leadership.
  • Barriers to collaborating across disciplines.
  • The challenge of allowing greater access to Māori Studies within the restrictive academic environments of other faculties and colleges.
  • The survival of Māori Studies as a core/heart or Māori scholarship.
  • The relationship with Pasifika Studies – defining overlaps and boundaries between Treaty and equity based advocacy.
  • Reaching a position where students were thinking and writing in Māori.
  • Watering down of TEC goals for Māori when these arrive at the university level.
  • The ability of Māori Studies to diversify into indigenous studies, health, development, media and other key contemporary areas.

What is Māori Studies

Te reo and tikanga
Long-term members of Māori Studies units stressed that te reo and tikanga Māori are the core foundational components of Māori Studies.

Mātauranga Māori
Māori Studies is also the study of mātauranga Māori and that this compasses all Māori knowledge including traditional and contemporary perspectives.

Māori Studies is therefore by definition inter-disciplinary and incorporates a range of disciplinary areas including politics, history, literature, critical theory, Treaty studies, indigenous knowledge, human rights, science, health, media studies, social work, development, media and so on. Māori Studies is also Indigenous Studies.

Māori Studies is neither to be limited by boundaries of discipline. To confine itself to the structures of other disciplines may impose inappropriate or artificial boundaries on the field of Māori Studies. Taking a broad approach also gives ongoing opportunity for Māori Studies to adapt to the needs and demands of an increasingly knowledgeable audience and provide a Māori perspective on all matters of interest to Māori.

Competition and collaboration
Māori Studies does not have to consider itself in competition with other departments where Māori content is taught. The two are complementary. The challenge for Māori Studies is to find a model of operation that resists academic divisions so mātauranga Māori can continue to grow to fulfil the purpose of Māori Studies which is contributing to making young Māori be confident as Māori. This challenge ought to be met by a reciprocal response from universities to support and encourage other departments and programmes to work with Māori Studies.

Further, given that one of the key activities of universities' is teaching, then the academic duty is to prioritise and decide where to extend the nature of Māori Studies and what must be taught to accommodate Māori interests. Academic staffs are to pursue extending Māori Studies as a notion of discourse and scholarship arising from a deep abiding concern for Māori, and for the future of Māori.

Staffs are to be challenged to develop strengths in other disciplines as well as their own specialist areas to support Māori Studies, continuing as a culmination of disciplines where the shape of Māori Studies will continue to evolve with form following function. The consequential ongoing re-design of curriculum will continue to be in the interests of the Māori community.

Future potential for Māori Studies

Changing Attitudes
For Māori Studies to receive its rightful recognition within the University environment, it needs to enjoy the same prominence and status of other long-established and influential disciplines. There are many attitudinal barriers to this.

Māori leadership
Additionally, to fulfil the development of Māori Studies in line with expectations of Māori, within the institutions Māori governance and leadership needs to be enhanced within universities and integrated models of governance established internally at the eight institutions. Without stronger governance models, it will not be possible to receive adequate funding or respond adequately to the pressures of institutional racism, both internally and externally to the academic institutions.

In future, Māori Studies can look to partnership opportunities and internal / external collaborations to support its developments. There will be a need to expand (content) to meet stakeholder expectations (as noted earlier) and this will mean having broader relationships to be able to respond to hapū, iwi and community expectations. These expectations need to be seen in the context of Treaty settlements, accountabilities and in response to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The influence of Māori Studies should extend beyond academic institutions.

TEC goals
External to Te Ao Māori, Crown agencies such as the Tertiary Education Commission will also have expectations of universities and Māori Studies to engage with their goals for Māori. However, this is also likely to converge with a continuing trend of the conflation of Māori and Treaty issues with Pasifika and notions of equity.

Māori graduates
It is likely that the higher expectations of Māori graduates will also create challenges and opportunities for Māori Studies as inter-generational increased competency in mātauranga Māori impacts on successive generations of Māori coming to universities.

Stakeholder expectations
Alongside the development of Māori Studies to meet these stakeholder expectations, there will be challenges with respect to globalisation and its influence on younger Māori generations. Associated opportunities will include the concurrent strengthening of indigenous knowledge internationally and Māori Studies will need to have significant partnerships with international groups, and be key players in larger global developments.

Leadership and community
Regardless of these challenges the future objectives of Māori Studies will continue to be in providing leadership within the Māori community. Within university institutions succession planning of Māori leadership is important.

Opportunities for Māori Studies

The willingness of Māori Studies staff and TKA to come together to discuss shared issues and opportunities suggests a strong possibility for ongoing and future collaboration, possibly in the form of:

  • developing the research programme of staff
  • shared degree programmes
  • support for relationships with other faculties and departments (regarding taught Māori content)
  • maximising new technology in Māori Studies teaching and research.

Outcomes of Forum

The Forum noted that this discussion was merely the start of the debate and further kōrero was needed on this topic.

As the Forum was hosted by the MANU AO Academy, it was agreed that a summary report from the Forum would go to its governance entity, TKA, as a record of the event. The facilitator explained to the Forum participants that part of the role of TKA was to consider how to influence the NZVCC committee in relation to all things Māori. A Forum report will provide TKA with more in-depth information on an important topic and help assist it in its role.

It was also noted that this Forum was one of the regular activities of MANU AO that bring Māori academic leaders together, and the Forum had provided information for MANU AO to consider relating to how to develop its programme to support Māori academic staff in the context of advancing Māori scholarship.



Terms of Reference

The MANU AO Academy aims to accelerate Māori leadership, strengthen the links between Māori academics and Māori professionals, and advance Māori scholarship.
MANU AO's 2009 work programme requires of it to host an Inter University Academic Forum that brings together Māori academics to debate relevant topics of interest consistent with the aims of MANU AO, and which adds to the discourse on that topic.

Topic of interest
This Academic Forum to be held on 9 October 2009, in Wellington will focus on understanding the nature of inter-disciplinary Māori Studies and its contribution to Māori development.

Historically Māori Studies departments were the entry point for many Māori into the university system. More importantly they held kaitiakitanga over Mātauranga Māori, and their disciplinary methodologies were often drawn from a number of original host disciplines such as social anthropology, education and other disciplines within the broader human sciences disciplines. More recently there has been a steady growth of Mātauranga Māori across other university disciplines. These disciplines are attracting more Māori students than those enrolled in Māori Studies courses.

This forum will primarily consider the wider parameters of Māori scholarship and any implications as it relates to Mātauranga Māori within universities.
Several related questions will also need to be considered eg:

What is the domain and nature of inter-disciplinary Māori Studies?

What is the methodology that can be brought to bear to this inter-disciplinary endeavour?

How Māori Studies will complement the emerging knowledge(s) within Māoridom?

  • What opportunities exist for universities to collaborate in future developments with respect to assessing and researching the agreed domain and nature of inter-disciplinary Māori Studies?

The forum will comprise senior Māori academics ie, members of Te Kahui Amokura, and AVC (Maori) nominated staff from each university.

It would be useful if participants could bring to the Forum: a short summary of their University's current Māori Studies courses, and a summary of issues / pressures that their University is facing relation to the Forum topic of interest.

The forum will be facilitated by Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith, and serviced by MANU AO Academy. The proceedings of the day will be recorded, and reported back to Te Kahui Amokura for its consideration.


Forum participants

Linda Smith (Waikato University)

Jim Peters, Margaret Mutu - University of Auckland
Pare Keiha, Josie Keelan - Auckland University of Technology
Linda Smith, Pou Temara - University of Waikato
Margaret Forster, Karyn Kee - Massey University
Piri Sciascia, Peter Adds - Victoria University of Wellington
Tā Tipene O'Regan, Rawiri Taonui - University of Canterbury
Hirini Matunga, Hariatia McKean - Lincoln University
Darryn Russell, Paul Tapsell - University of Otago

MANU AO Academy attendees:
Selwyn Katene
Taniya Ward
Karen Coutts
Meegan Hall

© Te Kahui Amokura 2010