14 April, 2023
Of all the lenses we could apply to the MacDiarmid Institute’s 20 years, one of the most important to examine is our work in the Mātauranga Māori space. Institute Deputy Director Māori, Associate Professor Pauline Harris, from Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Rakaipaaka and Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairoa, says she knew Paul Callaghan and has watched the Institute’s journey in Mātauranga Māori over the years:
“I met Paul Callaghan when he went to the Antarctic with Ocean Mercier and Dan Pringle, and then many other times over the years. I used to ask Paul for advice around Mātauranga Māori. He was always really open to talk to me and gave me feedback on my ideas and questions. Over the years also the Institute has always been really supportive of my science outreach to Māori communities, sharing equipment and gifting outreach packs for the kids, which they very much enjoyed.”
Pauline says while there were early movements towards building relationships with Māori, particularly through (former Director) Professor Kate McGrath’s connections with Taranaki iwi, the earliest MacDiarmid Institute workshops exploring Mātauranga Māori concepts were student-led initiatives, such as the 2015 symposium organised by Bart Ludbrook on ‘Mātauranga Māori, Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials’.
She says the Institute has come leaps and bounds in this regard over the last four years in terms of developing relationships and engaging with Mātauranga Māori and Māori on a variety of projects: “The Institute has grown in its ability to nurture and grow these relationships and connect with Māori business in the economic space. And there is now a genuine desire to work with iwi Māori on environmental issues, to develop capacity and capability, and to develop young Māori as well. And, importantly, this commitment to capability and capacity development has been done with Māori leading it.”
It feels like a really safe place for us to be able to do the work we need to do. I do feel really respected. The Institute is a good home to grow our research and our people.Associate Professor Pauline Harris Deputy Director Māori The MacDiarmid Institute
Pauline says she’s seen the growth, from the original kōrero in the original 2002 bid to the forming of the Discovery Awards in 2008 (later known as DiscoveryCamp), the Discovery Scholarships (which were set up in 2020), her Science Executive position, and the establishment (this year) of the position of Deputy Director Māori:
“People talk about having Māori PhD students working in this space, but actually we first need to grow the pipeline of Māori and Pacific Island students in the undergraduate physical sciences and Mātauranga Māori and Pūtaiao Māori. We already now have 43 Discovery Scholarship alumni. It’s really exciting because people do a lot of talking about needing Māori physics students and wanting to grow the pipeline, but the MacDiarmid Institute is actually doing it. The Institute has made a commitment not just to education, but to Māori education, and to bringing on board Māori and Pacific Island researchers and has now committed to a Mātauranga Māori Research programme, and most recently to a Deputy Director Māori position, which shows inclusivity of Māori in leadership roles within the Institute.
“I’ve watched the growth of the MacDiarmid Institute over the past 20 years, and seen it blossom in the last four to five years, really embedding Mātauranga Māori and Pūtaiao Māori. It’s given us a platform to help grow the pipeline.
“It feels like a really safe place for us to be able to do the work we need to do. I do feel really respected. The Institute is a good home to grow our research and our people.”