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A new Centre of Indigenous Science has been launched at the University of Otago on the back of the Matariki holiday.
Māori academic Associate Professor Anne-Marie Jackson (Ngāti Whātua, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu o Whangaroa, Ngāti Wai) is leading the strategic development of the teaching and research aspirations of the centre over the next six months before it formally starts on January 1, 2023.
"The Centre of Indigenous Science will be one of the first of its kind in Aotearoa, so this is an opportunity to continue to grow an academic department and scholarship based on ngā kaupapa Māori in sciences," Jackson said.
"We will take this time to reach out to our whānau, hapū, iwi, to our communities and networks and bring together the philosophical understanding and underpinnings of indigenous science."
Professor Jacinta Ruru (Raukawa, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāti Maniapoto), former co-Director of Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga and Professor of Law at the University of Otago, said the creation of the Centre of Indigenous Science is very exciting for the University, and especially for future students and the modern Aotearoa workforce.
"Otago will be soon graduating students who have a deeper understanding of mātauranga Māori; they will be of enormous service to iwi, hapū and whānau, and to our nation.
"As a country we need to value and apply more mātauranga to help address the biodiversity and climate crises. This is a huge moment for Otago and tertiary education worldwide."
Carrying on the legacy of great thinkers in the kaupapa Māori space, Associate Professor Jackson was one of the first 500 Māori doctoral scholars to graduate through the Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga vision, and she also currently co-leads the national Centre of Research Excellence, Coastal People: Southern Skies.
"This kaupapa is aspirational for our communities and taiohi. There might be a student, kid, or whānau member who sees us, and they can see themselves standing right where we are, to normalise excellence," Jackson says.
She says the new Centre will be a place for tauira to be nurtured and supported to contribute to their communities, Māori research and the world.
"We can teach anyone the academic skills, but we also pride ourselves on nurturing and bringing out the authenticity of who we are. Our graduates achieve highly in their work but also come out the end of the process as a whole person with their mana intact."
The new centre will be located within the Division of Sciences, and the division's pro-vice-chancellor Professor Richard Barker says this creates a launching pad for the development of a new and innovative programme.
"As one of the first of its kind in indigenous science, the centre's time has come.
"This is a great opportunity to carve out this new space, and we are excited to see the centre develop a highly attractive and valuable programme."
New beginnings and a 10th anniversary
As a period of reflection and new beginnings, Matariki will also be a time to move through the findings of a recent review at the University of Otago which identified systemic racism in the organisation, and to look forward and celebrate the tenth year of Te Koronga, the University's Indigenous Science Research Theme and Māori postgraduate research excellence.
Established in 2013 by Jackson and Dr Hauiti Hakopa, Te Koronga has successfully grown a strong graduate and research platform that is open to both Māori and non-Māori researchers involved in indigenous research focused on mauri ora.
"Over the next few months alone, we will have a further three Māori doctoral tauira graduating who are all driven by questions from their own whānau, and they are being trained in Māori research in sciences using Māori methodologies," Jackson said.
Co-directors of Te Koronga include Dr Chanel Phillips (Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi), Te Koronga's first doctoral graduate, and Dr Jeremy Hapeta (Ngāti Raukawa), who will continue to build Te Koronga's focus of research and teaching excellence underpinned by a kaupapa Māori ethos.
"The kaupapa of Te Koronga describes the ardent yearning and striving for esoteric knowledge as we seek to explore the breadth and depth of mātauranga for flourishing wellness, both for our people and our environments," Phillips says.
"This strong foundation continues to drive our direction and future focus for the betterment of the students we teach, the communities we serve, and the environments we depend on for our health and wellbeing".