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Massey Magazine Issue 13 November 2002

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The Te Putahi-a-Toi team in the Capital includes (left to right) Dr Chris Cunningham, Sharon Taite, Sheridan McKinley, Margaret Forster (front), Amohia Boulton, Lynne Pere, Kirsty Maxwell, Rangi Mataamua and Jacob Tapiata.

School of Mäori Studies begins new development phase in Capital

A formal karakia in the University’s commercial building on Adelaide Road last week marked the start of a new phase of development for the School of Mäori Studies in the capital.

Now located one floor above the University’s new Centre for Public Health Research, the School of Mäori Studies (Te Putahi-a-Toi) is extending its reach in Mäori language teaching, while simultaneously expanding its Mäori development research programmes. About 10 lecturers and researchers will eventually be employed.

Head of Mäori Studies Professor Mason Durie says while the former Wellington Polytechnic was nationally recognised as a pioneer in Mäori language immersion teaching, other providers – such as Te Wananga o Raukawa – have largely taken over that function, at least for the introductory classes. The role of Mäori studies in Wellington was reappraised after the merger and the emphasis shifted from certificate courses to postgraduate courses and a research focus. Professor Durie says there is a strong need for postgraduate courses in Mäori language and in other aspects of Mäori development.

“In the past, Wellington Polytechnic courses were geared at undergraduate or diploma level. We see an increasing need in Wellington for postgraduate studies, especially in te reo Mäori,” he says.“Key new programmes include the postgraduate Diploma in Mäori language. The programme will be useful for Mäori language teachers, as well as Mäori public servants who find they need more sophisticated language skills when dealing with Mäori communities.”

Professor Durie says a series of research programmes directly related to Mäori development will be the second key area of activity area on the Wellington campus. The HRC-funded Mäori health research programme (Te Pumanawa Hauora), established at Turitea in 1993, is now being extended to Wellington. The programme focuses on evidence-based, Mäori-centred research. Outcomes are linked to measurable gains in social, cultural and economic development.

In conjunction with this work is the FoRST-funded Te Hoe Nuku Roa research project. This 20-year study of 700 Mäori households will benchmark what policies are required for Mäori to benefit at a household level. Researchers work to develop those policies, to give sound advice to the Government.

Professor Durie says a critical part of Mäori development is health, so much of the research in Wellington will be health related. “We’re not coming to it from a clinical position – that’s for the medical schools – but we will look at it from angles of public health, service delivery and health promotion. In this area, we have an obvious synergy with Professor Neil Pearce’s Centre for Public Health Research, located in the same building. I’m sure many mutual benefits will result.”

Another focus on the Wellington campus will be professional development – raising the skills, the knowledge base and qualifications within the Mäori workforce.

“We have three or four programmes available now in which we are trying to increase the qualifications of Mäori people who are directly involved in Mäori development.”

These programmes include a recently-launched health workforce development project, plus continued contributions of the Mäori dimension to nursing studies and social work programmes. A PhD programme on both the Turitea and Wellington campuses is also targeting Mäori graduates. Currently the School has 28 PhD candidates.

Professor Durie says since the mid-80s there has been an increasing emphasis on the development of Mäori delivery systems, particularly in areas such as justice, education and health. “It’s part of this notion of autonomy, of Mäori taking the lead. After a decade, there is now recognition that in order to take it to another level, the skill and qualification base must be improved,” he says.

He expects Te Putahi-a-Toi to develop its own style on the Wellington campus. Research projects in Wellington will be unique to that campus and reflect the interests of the Capital as much as the wider Mäori community.

Funding for Wellington research programmes will mostly come from external agencies such as the HRC, FoRST, the Ministries of Education, Health and Social Policy, Te Mangai Paho and Te Puni Kokiri.

Professor Durie wants to see strong links maintained between the campus Kuratini marae and Te Putahi-a-Toi.

“Obviously the marae will retain its broad function of being the centre for all Mäori activities on campus, and serving all departments. For the School of Mäori Studies the marae, rather than the School’s new facility, will continue to be the cultural centre of the campus.”

Health Research Programme director Dr Chris Cunningham says two-thirds of Te Putahi-a-Toi’s activities in Wellington will be research. An important aspect of this will be proximity to Ministry of Health policy makers, and the close ties expected to develop with the Centre for Public Health Research.

An important area will be measuring health outcomes for Mäori – knowing how effective a particular programme has been. The unit will also look at Mäori research systems – which are largely outside the mainstream – in order to establish which methods work best for Mäori.

Dr Cunningham says while comparing average Mäori health statistics to those of Pakeha is interesting, it doesn’t help much in the way of solutions, because most Mäori aren’t average.

“So we’re therefore looking at the range of social and economic disparities within Mäori. How you measure them, and how you might do something about them. We see a range of interactions happening here, the fact that not all Mäori are the same, that people have different levels of access to cultural resources, to language, to marae, to economic resources. And what of the generations of city-dwellers, who are also Mäori, who experience poor outcomes? The broad research programme is about asking the questions, understanding the answers from a Mäori perspective, then coming up with solutions that produce measurable gains for Mäori overall.”

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