National | Mātauranga

Professors unlock access to higher-knowledge platform

Professor Sandy Morrison says her recent promotion to full professor provides her access to a platform of academia that allows her to better help Māori and indigenous knowledge.

Morrison (Te Arawa, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Rārua) is one of three Māori recently elevated to professorship by the University of Waikato, alongside Tom Roa (Ngāti Maniapoto) and Kura Paul-Burke (Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Whakehemo).

She says it's important to have Māori and indigenous knowledge sit at that level of academia, where knowledge is constantly challenged, reviewed and critiqued.

"Human knowledge sits behind, and influences so many of our everyday lives, socially, economically, geopolitically, environmental. So, being a professor allows me access to these conversations, and particularly my professorship is in Māori and indigenous knowledge.

"If we're not at their table, advocating for our knowledge systems and offering different perspectives and different solutions, we're not part of those conversations, and we will always continue to be marginalised," she told teaomā

She says an example of her mahi reclaiming spaces previously unoccupied by Māori and indigenous creators is with Te Tai Uka a Pia, which helped inform research around the Southern Ocean and tikanga-based climate adaptation strategies.

Bringing our own narratives

"Te Tai Uka a Pia very specifically speaks to our involvement in the southern oceans and the Antarctic. And that is such an important ecosystem because the models taken from that are able to help us not just in New Zealand but globally to have predictions for what's going to happen in our climate.

"As we know, we're just seeing all of these changes in our climate. And so there's no reason why we can't bring our own narratives and stories. Our stories of migration, we have stories of whales and octopuses, and the like. The project I was involved with, particularly with my colleague, Amy Kaio, from Ngāi Tahu, was to bring some of those to the fore and some of our knowledge systems and it just increases that span of knowledge and therefore allows our knowledge to also contribute and stand alongside contemporary science as well."

Her professorship is also a recognition of the decades-long work Morrison has contributed to adult education, here in Aotearoa and around the world.

"I've become very aware of those who don't have this access to education we have in New Zealand and we're committed to improving that, particularly in the Pacific as well. And my role internationally has been to advocate for greater involvement of women and girls in education, and those more marginalised from the education sector."