MAI Ora and Ngā Pae conferences, 3MT Thesis, and a new KIN doctor

As I reflect on an incredibly enriching past 10 days of MAI Ora and Ngā Pae o te Maramatanga conferences, I realise that there are pockets of beauty, creativity and innovation in our education and research spaces that strengthen our Indigenous ways of knowing, doing and being. This is  despite the constant media and political barrage of concerns for holistic well-being usually framed in a deficit way, and the many unfortunate events that are happening with our collectives across the world. Although our numbers may be relatively small, the courageous International Indigenous Research community is alive and kicking, and in fact kicking A$$! This is a big mihi to the MAI ki Aronui whānau in collaboration with the MAI ki Tamaki whānau for MAI Ora 2018 and to Ngā Pae o te Maramatanga  whānau whānui for two outstanding back to back conferences!

Ngā Wai o Horotiu  MAI Ora

I wanted to reflect on my 3MT (3 minute) thesis a moment! Yes, it was a brave thing that us 10 PhD Candidates from across the country with one from Great Turtle Island, all did in the name of ‘tautoko the kaupapa’. Mine was a poem I have included below. If only I would have paid better attention to the rules of the competition, that is, there were no poems or raps allowed,  I might have had a chance…. Nevermind, my gratitude goes to Dr Betty Ofe-Grant, our sixth successful KIN Doctor, who defended her PhD doctorate on Friday as the Ngā Pae o te Maramatanga conference was closing, for encouraging Rachel Cocker-Hopkins and I to participate in the 3MT thesis competition. I think Betty is the first Samoan who has earned a doctorate in the Business School at the University of Auckland. Like most Indigenous students she faced immense challenges on the doctoral journey including the loss of her beloved father. The humble Dr Betty took out the last Ngā Pae 3MT thesis competition in 2016 and coached Rachel and I beforehand. All of the KIN group are proud of Betty’s successes. She has taken us from Five doctors and a Baby (see previous blog) to Six doctors from KIN, and our baby Amaia whose mother Amber Nicholson is in the last throws of her doctorate, and one more baby on the way, thanks to Dr Nimbus Staniland (one of the six doctors). Behind Betty’s pleas for the KIN group whānau to join the 3MT thesis was our rangatira Associate Professor Manuka Henare. When Manuka asks for something it is not really asking, nor is it telling, it is this thing of, ‘here is an opportunity’ and we had better make the most of it! So Rachel and I did!

L-R Alehandrea Raiha Manuel (winner English), Abigail McClutchie, Rachel Cocker-Hopkins, Atakohu Middleton (winner Reo)

It was actually a choice line up of ten scholars! Everyone had memorised their lines and managed to distill through the thousands of words they had carefully crafted for their PhD theses, into a 3 minute quickfire of the key ideas explaining their research. Full marks to English language competition winner, Alehandrea Raiha Manuel of Ngāti Porou who took out people’s and judges choice for a stunning and passionate piece on hearing loss and hearing health care. Her thinking around the putātara as a way of communicating with each other with pertinent images of the inner ear and the unfurling silver fern frond from the ponga tree, showed us the similar spiral shape representing new life, growth and strength. All characteristics she used in her korero to win $500 for people’s choice and $1000 for the English prize. The te reo Māori section was won by MAI ki Aronui legend Atakohu Middleton after receiving a tono from Dr Valance Smith. She too got a $1000 prize and paid Dr Val back by nominating him for an impromptu pecha kucha presentation of 10 slides in 20 seconds each. Although both him and Emeritus Professor Ngahuia Te Awekotuku also thrown into the pecha kucha to fill in time while the judges Dr Hinekura Smith, Dr Ocean Mercier and Professor Poia Rewi convened, couldn’t quite keep to the ‘family show’ brief. They were hilarious and reminded us that procreation was not a taboo topic. One just needs to look in the wharenui at Ngā Wai o Horotiu and Waipapa marae, which must have been too much after a long week of hui, for Poia who continued the theme at the poroporoaki closing remarks. Heoi ano that’s the Indigenous world for you! Cutting edge!  Anyway this is my thesis with a few extra lines that didn’t quite make the 3 minute time mark. It is my research topic in poem form.  I also want to give thanks to all of those who helped me practice and tidy up my rhymes, and to Dr Lance O’Sullivan for allowing me to use his photo on my one slide to represent kaupapa driven entrepreneurs.

3MT slide


Wouldn’t it be great if success, was based on noble and chiefly deeds?

Mahi rangatira! Put your hands up, if you agree!

Mine is a kaupapa Māori study, methodology, and worldview,

With contemporary Māori entrepreneurs, and  historical cues.

It’s about navigating mahi rangatira, work that’s great for the whole!

It’s serving the people, with no hierarchy at all!

The historical scene, starts with Cook and survival,

He opened the flood gates for European arrival.

Merchants, ‘n’ missionaries, all vying for space,

Māori musket wars, Christianity, a technology race.

For international trade, Māori owned vessels, farms, an’ flour-mills,

Utu, the governing system enhanced their entrepreneurial skills!

Utu got the job done, from the bottom to the top,

Reciprocity ‘n’ balance, or a retribution shot.

Trading and exchanging, lands, clothes, ‘n’ some meals.

Kaimoana for bush kai, like oysters for eels.

Utu put food on the table, gave respect to the land,

It protected Papatuanuku, Mother Earth, where we stand.

Māori had a place to call home, a community, a marae,

Their tūpuna, their pepehā, their belonging and ties.

Hapū to hapū, rangatira, great chiefs,

Had opportunities, innovation, sound values ‘n’ beliefs!

Now, from the past to the present, – what’s transitioned on through?

Believe it or not, it’s kaupapa Māori! How we think, and we do!

I did, 12 fabulous interviews, with kaupapa driven entrepreneurs,

They run small-SMEs, they’re resilient and endure.

They’re conscientised and educated, and help as they go.

They kōrero Māori, learn, adapt and they grow.

They draw from the past, and resist colonisation,

Empowering, transforming, and conscientisation.

They work on the kaupapa, and what’s great for the whole,

Sometimes it’s for free, serving’s – just – how they roll.

Mahi rangatira, from history, is not dead, and not gone.

Long held values and principles, is where little’s gone wrong.

To keep their enterprise open, is no easy task,

It’s wrapped in their why! Should anyone ask.

Navigating mahi rangatira in an entrepreneurial way,

T’is a system built to last, it’s back to the future, today!

You’re probably wondering – why this is important to me,

‘Cause I’ve imagined a world where mahi rangatira can be.

Mahi rangatira, noble and chiefly acts!

Homai te pakipaki if your’all down for down for that!

By Abigail McClutchie


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