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What we can teach the world about decolonisation

PhD student Jodi Porter at summer school in Barcelona





Māori have a lot to share with the world about decolonisation.

This was one of the learnings for Massey PhD candidate Jodi Porter, Ngāi Tai, Whakatōhea, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Ngāti Porou who recently attended an international summer school that focused on decolonising knowledge and power at the University Autonoma de Barcelona in Spain.

The school, organised by the Centre of Study and Investigation for Decolonial Dialogues in Barcelona, brought academics from around the world to discuss decolonisation from a wide range of perspectives.

Ms Porter says while it was great to be exposed to global schools of thought and leading academics from a range of cultures, it made her realise how far Māori have come in their journey to becoming more self-determining. “As Māori, we’re really quite advanced in terms of what we’re doing across a whole range of levels and sectors. Things such as our growing Māori economy and developments in education through kohanga reo, kura kaupapa and whare wānanga are just some of the examples of how we as Māori are actively working towards a decolonial agenda.”

Ms Porter however acknowledges there is still much more to be done. “I think there are significant strategic shifts we can make to allow us to actively participate on the global stage, whilst still being authentic to our Māori ways of being and knowing. Our unique Māori identity is most definitely our greatest asset. At present, for many of our iwi, the tribal governance structures that we have colonially inherited through government legislation are dominating the way we do things. We really need to challenge the role these entities play in advancing our tribal agendas, because we can see that our iwi have become so corporatised.”

Ms Porter says she was fortunate to attend the summer school alongside another Māori delegate, Dr Jennifer Martin, Te Rarawa, who is currently a lecturer at the University of Auckland. As indigenous academics trying to contribute to discussions that were primarily focused on the global North, the pair felt that the New Zealand and wider Pacific context was very different to the colonised realities of other cultures throughout the world.

“At the end of the day Māori are actually doing things, rather than talking or theorising about change. We are actually living and breathing it by being self-determining.”

Ms Porter says while she would encourage Māori students to attend the summer school she believes New Zealand would be well placed to host it’s own event, especially in bringing together South Pacific and indigenous experts and activists to discuss opportunities for collective decolonial projects. “It made me realise that we do have a lot to contribute to decolonisation internationally, and even more so that we have a responsibility to come together as indigenous peoples in order to effect change.”

Ms Porter is completing her PhD in Public Health with the SHORE & Whāriki Research Centre and is based in Ōpōtiki. Her research focuses on the vitality of her iwi Ngāi Tai and speaks to some of the colonial tensions that her people have endured and still experience today in an attempt to effectively navigate and chart new pathways forward.

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