Skip to Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map

Te Tumu Research
Research at Otago in Māori, Pacific, and Indigenous Studies

Lachy Paterson — Inaugural Professorial Lecture


Later this month, at 5.30pm on 29 July, Te Tumu’s newest professor, Lachy Paterson, will deliver his Inaugural Professorial Lecture, in Archway 1 Lecture Theatre. Titled “Colonialism, Race and Print” is looks at some of Lachy’s work with colonial newspapers.

This is a public lecture open to all. This will also be live-streamed (click here for the live-stream link, and more information.)  In due course the lecture will also be uploaded into the University’s YouTube channel.

More graduation success for Te Tumu

Being able to highlight student success always brings great pleasure to Te Tumu.  This May we have ten students completing their degrees in May.  Thomas Aerepo-Morgan (Ngāi Tahu, Waikato, Ngāti Whakaue, Kuki Airani), Maramena Tuna (Tūhoe) and Kaahu White (Ngāi Tahu, Te Rarawa) graduate with a BA in Māori Studies.  Thomas is currently pursuing a Master of Indigenous Studies degree, and Maramena is teaching our MAOR108 (Waiata) paper.  Liam Gillan-Taylor (Pākehā), Brogan Handcock (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Kahungunu, Pākehā),  Jade McCaughan (Pākehā), Tiana Matthews (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Porou, Pākehā) and Isabel Moore (Ngāti Porou, Pākehā) all graduate with a BA in Indigneous Development/He Kura Matanui.  Two students (below) are graduating with PhDs.  We wish all our graduates future success wherever their skills and knowledge take them.

Emma Dunlop-Bennett (Ngāti Maniapoto, Samoan, Pākehā) undertook her doctorate, “Through their eyes: a Samoan perspective on child wellbeing”, while based principally in Wellington.  Emma’s supervisors have included Assoc Professor Jenny Bryant-Tokalau, Dr Michelle Schaaf, Assoc Professor Bev Lawton and Professor Tony Dowell.

Her abstract reads: Child wellbeing is the subject of a considerable body of research and policy making globally, and in New Zealand today. Despite its extensive use, the concept of child wellbeing is used differently across disciplines and across diverse social and cultural contexts. Little of the extant literature recognises the influence of ‘other’ worldviews, cultural beliefs, values, and ways of knowing. Further, the voices of children are largely missing in the child wellbeing debates, despite the fact that children are able to offer authoritative knowledge of their world and of their experiences. A review of the literature on Pasifika, children and childhoods, and wellbeing, highlights that there is currently no literature in New Zealand that connects these three areas together. This is the gap where this research contributes new knowledge to understanding – from the standpoint of Samoan children and their parents living in Wellington – how they conceptualise child wellbeing. The Samoan diaspora is the focus of this research given the diversity that exists within Pasifika.

Guided by the Talanoa ile i’a (Faleolo, 2009), this exploratory research positions children as ‘experts’ on their wellbeing and creates the space for them to share their knowledge. The Samoan children do so through combining Samoan (talanoaga) and Western (photovoice) research methods. The Samoan children took 10 photos of what made them feel ‘happy, safe, and loved’, which they used to guide their talanoa. The views of their parents were elicited through talanoaga.

From the talanoaga, the Samoan children defined their wellbeing as “a bunch of stuff that has good bits and bad bits”. This definition picks up the relational aspect of wellbeing as well as resilience. Four factors are important to their wellbeing, which are: social connections, not having to worry, feeling valued and included, and being a good person. Connecting with people, particularly their family, stands out as being of overwhelming importance to their wellbeing. The Samoan children bring these ideas together conceptually as a seesaw in a playground. Parents conceptualise the wellbeing of their children as ola manaia or the beautiful life. They see their main role as laying the foundations on which their children could have a beautiful life. For many parents, they are drawing on the fa’asamoa and the way in which they have been raised, but ‘tweaking’ this to account for shifts in the broader context. Of note, parents view wellbeing in terms of their children being happy and emotionally stable, being good people, having values, and that they do something meaningful with their lives that they were passionate about. The talanoa from the parents are woven together as the Ola Manaia model that captures the importance of resilience and the relational aspect of wellbeing.

This research has significance in terms of adding to the community, national and global body of knowledge on child wellbeing. This is the first New Zealand study of the wellbeing of Samoan children that gives priority to the voices of children. In doing so, it adds the child’s voice as well as the ‘other’ to the child wellbeing literature, and does this in a holistic way that takes account of the multi-dimensional aspect of child wellbeing. Further, this research reinforces that, when given the opportunity, children are able to make an incredible contribution to issues that affect them.

Paratene (Hirini) Tane‘s thesis topic discusses “Whakapapakainga: a template for the cross-generational development of marae-communities.” Hirini’s supervisors include Professors Paul Tapsell, Merata Kawharu and Poia Rewi.

His abstract explains: Through case study research located in Northland, New Zealand, this thesis investigates the future of papakāinga (kin-community settlements) and their marae (ancestral centres of tribal identity). Māori kin-communities have transformed in response to crisis and opportunity over generations. Due to historical impacts of Māori land alienation, individualisation, and Māori urbanisation, the binding fabric of papakāinga – kinship and economy – has weakened.

‘Whakapapakāinga: a template for the cross-generational development of marae-communities’ investigates the concerns and hopes of the descendants of Oromahoe regarding the future of their papakāinga. It uses interviews with elders, a Māori land trust; a questionnaire with community descendants (local and non-local), archival research, and reflexive ethnography. The key finding of this research investigation is that papakāinga development should innovate within central needs – energy, housing and food – that restore economy around papakāinga and reactivate functional kinship links between community members.

This thesis is a study in the field of the target audience. The findings are to assist the Oromahoe Trust, the Oromahoe marae and its descendants (local and non-local) in shaping a strategic direction for their ancestral settlement, their papakāinga. The findings also provide an kin-insider approach to papakāinga development for housing development agencies, district and regional councils, funding agencies, banks, architecture firms, solar technology suppliers and Māori and non-Māori agricultural and horticultural enterprises that neighbour papakāinga. It is important not only to New Zealand’s 778 papakāinga, but also small indigenous communities elsewhere in the world facing similar crises of relevance to descendant diasporas, identity and development.

Using the courts to ensure the durability of Treaty settlements

Chris Finlayson, former Attorney-General and Minister of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, will present an Open Lecture, “Using the courts to ensure the durability of Treaty settlements” on Friday 24th of May at 3pm, at Te Tumu.  This event is co-hosted by the Faculty of Law and Te Tumu.  All interested people are welcome.  Please circulate to your networks.

Te Tumu Seminar

Dr Melinda Webber (Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu) and Kapua O’Connor (Ngāti Kurī) will be presenting the next Te Tumu seminar, looking at  pathways for the success of Māori students from the Tai Tokerau.  Dr Webber, based at the University of Auckland, has been a recipient of Marsden Fast-Start Grant, a former Fulbright/Nga Pae o te Maramatanga Scholar, and was recently awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship from the Royal Society. Kapua O’Connor is also from Auckland where he had been part of Starpath, a pioneering research project focused on equitable outcomes for New Zealand students who have been under-represented in tertiary education.

The seminar, entitled:

Ko ahau tēnei, e tū atu nei
Here I am, standing before you
He uri whakaheke o Te Tai Tokerau
A descendant of the northern tide.

will be in Te Paparewa (Ground Floor, Te Tumu) at 3.30-4.40pm, Wednesday 15 May.  Light refreshments and further discussion will follow on from the formal presentation.

Abstract: Whilst key educational policies stipulate that Māori students must “experience educational success as Māori” few have explained what ‘success’ might look like for Māori from the perspective of specific iwi and/or hapū. Te Tai Tokerau (Northland) has an epic history of powerful leaders who have had a positive impact in the Maori world and beyond. This strengths-based Marsden project, led by Ngāpuhi and Muriwhenua descendants, has identified uniquely Tai Tokerau pathways, identities and perceptions of success. The project celebrates Tai Tokerau distinctiveness, success and history using Te Whare Tapu o Ngāpuhi as the boundaries of the study’s reach.
This presentation will outline the emerging findings of this project, highlighting the ways Tai Tokerau have responded to adversity, change, and challenges over many generations. This project has produced powerful narratives of Māori success, identity and thriving from Tai Tokerau by re-telling narratives of success and thriving that put Tai Tokerau icons (both human and non-human), pūrakau, and mohiotanga (knowledge) at the centre of that conceptualisation. Using narrative and thematic analysis approaches this project has produced accounts that express unique understandings of identity and success through a distinctive Tai Tokerau lens, prioritising Northern whakapapa (genealogy), mātauranga (ways of knowing), māramatanga (deep understanding) and wānanga (debate).

Latest PhD submission

Raphael Richter-Gravier submitting his thesis for examination.

Te Tumu is proud to announce the latest PhD submissions by one of our students, Raphael Richter-Gravier, entitled “Manu narratives of Polynesia: a comparative study of birds in 300 traditional Polynesian stories”.

Raphael came to Otago in 2012, having previously studied history in his native France, to pursue a Diploma for Graduates in Japanese and Māori Studies.  He was a top student in his reo papers; that he has always achieved the highest grades in all his papers shows his amazing work ethic and flair for languages.  He started his PhD in 2016 on bird narratives, with Professor Michael Reilly and Dr Michelle Schaaf of Te Tumu as supervisors.  Raphael’s thesis was completed as a “co-tutelle” from both Otago and l’Université de la Polynésie française.  Raphael’s other supervisor was Professor Bruno Saura, an expert on Polynesian culture at UPF.

Koia, koia, e hoa. We look forward to your graduation.

Te Tumu Seminar

Talofa lava.

Our new Pacific Islands Studies lecturer, Vaivaimalemalo Dr Michael Ligaliga will be presenting Te Tumu’s first Research Seminar for 2019  tomorrow afternoon 3pm, 29th of March. Michael’s topic is Fa’a Samoa: Peacebuilder or Peacebreaker: Understanding the Domestic Violence Problem in Samoa: A Peace and Conflict Perspective.  The seminar will be in Te Paparewa, on the ground floor of Te Tumu, and is open to all interested people.

Click on Seminar Poster- Michael Ligaliga to find out more.  Feel free to distribute to your networks.


Te Tumu academic to keynote at 1869 Conference

A lot was happening in 1869.  For example internationally: Wyoming granted women the right to vote; the Heinz company was founded; the Periodic Table published; and the Suez Canal opened.  In New Zealand, we were in the middle of the Gold Rushes and the New Zealand Wars, and the University of Otago was founded.

Megan Pōtiki

This year the Australasian Victorian Studies Association and the Centre for Research on Colonial Culture are co-hosting a conference of the theme of 1869 here at Otago on 25-29 September. 

One of Te Tumu’s staff members, Megan Pōtiki will be presenting a keynote lecture.  Other keynote speakers include Dr. Helen Pearson (Chief Magazine Editor, of the prestigious periodical Nature which first appeared in 1869) and Professor Marion Thain (of King’s College, London).  Specially invited speakers include novelist, essayist and literary scholar Dr Tina Makereti (Massey University), whose most recent novel, The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke, was long-listed for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards; as well as Lisa Chatfield, producer of the BBC mini-series The Luminaries and its set decorator, Daniel Birt.

If you wish to present at this conference, please see the Call For Papers below.  Topics do not have to be about 1869 exactly, but events and developments from around that time.  This will be an exciting conference that will run alongside heritage festival events.



Mātauranga Māori at Otago

Te Tumu’s Dr Tangiwai Rewi’s research on Māori education features in the latest He Kitenga issue on Mātauranga Māori.  Click here for the full story, as well as other amazing Māori research at the University of Otago.

Tangiwai Rewi: “Now you can once again get an education in te reo Māori, but what a journey the language and our people have been on to get it to this point.”

Call for Applications for PhD: Māori Literature and the News

There is an exciting opportunity for someone to do a PhD on “Māori Literature and the news”, as part of a Marsden project headed by Associate Professor Jacob Edmund (English and Linguistics, University of Otago).

See: PhD scholarship in Māori literature and the news for details.

Please circulate this on your own networks, or forward to anyone you think might be interested.

New Te Tumu Staff

Te Tumu is fortunate to have two new staff teaching at Te Tumu this year.

Vaivaimalemalo Dr Michael Fusi Ligaliga

Dr Michael Ligaliga was raised in Upolu, Samoa, and attended school in both Samoa and Auckland.  He them moved to Hawai’i to pursue undergraduate study at Brigham Young University in Hawai’i, graduating in Political Science and International Peace Building.  He first came to Dunedin in 2011, undertaking a PGDipArts at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, followed by an MA.

Michael then moved back to Hawai’i where he taught at BYU-H, and was for a time the acting Director of the David O. McKay Center for Intercultural Understanding.  He then returned to Otago in 2015 to enrol in his PhD at the NCPCS, with Dr Heather Devere as his primary supervisor.  Not only is Michael the first Pacific Islands doctoral student to graduate from the Centre, but his thesis was deemed to be ‘exceptional’ (i.e. when all the examiners of a candidate’s thesis agree that the thesis is among the top 10% of theses examined.)

Michael’s research focuses on domestic and family violence through a Peace and Conflict Studies lens, and the application of Peace and Conflict theories to aspects of Pacific societies.  In particular he played with Galtung’s Typology of Violence to highlight the “invisible” nature of societal violence.  Michael will continue to pursue and publish this research while he is here in Te Tumu.

This year the university is trialing a new co-taught paper at summer school (PACR101) designed to help integrate new Pasifika students into the university lifestyle and community.  Michael arrived in January, and was straight into the classroom teaching these students.  This year he will be giving some guest lectures in PACI101 “Pacific Societies” and PACI201″Contemporary Pacific Islands Issues”, and in Semester Two he will teaching PACI410 “Pacific Leadership” and PACI310, a special topic based on his doctoral research.

Michael is pleased to be back “home” in Dunedin, as are his wife Faalima and their daughter and son, Joanie and Leahcim.


Dr Gianna Leoni

Dr Gianna Leoni (Ngati Kuri and Ngai Takoto) is well-known to almost anyone associated with Te Tumu.  She is a former Tumuaki (President) of Te Roopu Māori (in 2013), and undertook her BA(Hons) at Te Tumu, as well as her MA and PhD.  Her PhD, written in te reo Māori, looked at the use of te reo in government departments.  She has also been a tutor and senior tutor, research assistant, teaching fellow, and a co-editor of Te Kōparapara, Te Tumu’s MAOR102 textbook.

Her last position was as a postdoctoral fellow, funded by Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga (Whai Rawa theme), investigating the expression of economic aspirations in te reo Māori in the past, present and future.

Gianna has been appointed as a lecturer, and this year will be teaching MAOR311, one of our 300-level Māori language papers, and INGS501, the core theory and methods paper for the Master of Indigenous Studies programme.  She will also co-ordinate and teach into MAOR206/306 (He Pūkenga Tuhi), a Māori writing skills paper.

Gianna will continue her research from her postdoctoral programme, but is also interested in issues of Māori identity.  She sees a multiplicity of identities, and wishes to break down stereotypes of what “Māori” is meant to mean.  She believes it is important for her research to be relevant and contribute to the communities she is involved with, the local Dunedin Māori community and her hau kāinga in Muriwhenua.

In her spare time, Gianna is president of the South Pacific Rugby League and Sports Club.  The club, with a mainly Māori and Pasifika membership, now boasts 15 teams playing rugby league, basketball, softball and netball.