As you know Dr Erica Newman fronts a Marsden-funded research project, Journey Home: Descendants of Māori adoptees search for their tūrangawaewae. Read more about it here. She has recently been communicating with the Ministry of Justice as they begin to review the 1955 Adoption Act, providing her expert insight regarding the effect of this Act on the identity of Māori adoptees and their descendants, especially if they have not been able to connect to their taha Māori.
Erica writes, “New Zealand’s 1955 Adoption Law has had a detrimental affect on the identity of many adoptees and their descendants. This antiquated piece of legislation is now under review and this is our chance to have a say about what we think this new Act should look like, to a focus on the child rather than the adoptive and/or birth parents.
“For instance, this could be the repeal of the current Act altogether with the intention that a system be developed whereby a child’s identity is nurtured through continued connections with whānau and their history and culture, to allow the child to truly understand who they are through the knowledge of where they are from and where they belong. Or, alternatively, significant changes could be made to the current Act such as not renaming the child when adopted, not having a veto on records, a requirement to maintain whānau connections, and whāngai becoming legally recognised (under the recognition of the child’s hapū and iwi).
“If you have experienced the legal adoption system (personally or whānau members) this is an opportunity to have a say. The more narratives the Ministry of Justice has, the more informed they will be in making change.”
Below are links for more details, please note that submissions need to be in by 31 August 2021.
Te Tumu is excited to announce the appointment of a “new” lecturer. Of course, many will already know Dr Erica Newman, as she has studied and worked in Te Tumu in various roles over many years. Moving into a confirmation-path lecturer’s role in the Indigenous Development programme is the culmination of all her hard work.
Erica’s research has focused on children and adoption. She undertook her BA (Hons) in Te Tumu, completing a dissertation on Māori, European and “half-caste” children in New Zealand from 1840-1852, with a specific focus on the care of children. She followed this with her MA, a history of adoption/whāngai within Aotearoa New Zealand, including the concept of “whāngai”. This research contains a special emphasis on transracially adopted Māori children and its effects on future generations, something pertinent to Erica’s own whakapapa. Her PhD, completed in 2018, looked at the adoption of children in Fiji during British colonial rule of 1874- 1970, including both indigenous and colonial practices and institutions. Erica has also attended various conferences, and published on her research, including an article on transracial adoption in the prestigious American Indian Quarterly in 2013.
More recently Erica has managed to get through to the second stage of a Fast Start Marsden application on the historical effect of adoptions for descendants of Māori adoptees, how adoption not only affects the adoptee, adoptive parents and biological parents but the ripple effect carried down to following generations. This includes the importance of whakapapa in how Māori adoptees are able to, or not able to, identify themselves as Māori. We have our fingers crossed that Erica’s Marsden bid is successful, as this will be exciting and useful research.
Erica has managed a strong research trajectory despite a heavy teaching load. She has long been responsible for Te Tumu’s giant MAOR102 Māori Society paper, managing hundreds of students each year and a troupe of tutors. Last year she was part of team organising Te Tumu’s modules in the (even larger) POPH192 Population Health paper. But since 2008 Erica has also taught in a variety of other papers in all of Te Tumu’s programmes over the years, as well have undertaken supervision duties in the Master of Indigenous Studies programme. We’ve seen a number of innovations, such as an in-house journal for the MAOR202 Tikanga and Māori paper, to give undergraduate students an idea of what it is like to publish an article, and developing special tutorials for MAOR102 students who come to university already very knowledgeable on tikanga Māori.
So in many ways, not too much is going to change for Erica—she will still be working flat-tack on her research and teaching. It’s just wonderful that we can all celebrate in her success.