The small team of researchers at Te Kotahi Research Institute at the University of Waikato have succeeded in bringing together Māori providers, researchers and policy-makers to deliver maximum benefit to the communities they work with.
Their commitment and effectiveness in advancing Māori health research and knowledge, and in maximising the uptake of their findings, has just earned them the Health Research Council of New Zealand’s inaugural Te Tohu Rapuora award for Māori Health Research Leadership, Excellence and Contribution.
The Award was presented at the Royal Society Te Apārangi 2018 Research Honours Aotearoa in Te Papa, in recognition of the Institute’s significant contribution to Māori health and its collaborative work with iwi, hapū and other Māori health stakeholders.
Health Research Council (HRC) chief executive Professor Kath McPherson acknowledged the Institute’s commitment to Māori wellbeing and to building the capacity and capability of the Māori health research workforce to serve the community.
“They’ve helped strengthen Kaupapa Māori methodologies in the Māori health research space by collaborating with community about which research matters most. They’ve worked with researchers across the country, providing workshops, and connecting health researchers with iwi researchers,” she said.
Researcher and senior advisor to Te Kotahi Researc
h Institute, Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith, says that building capability is a key focus for the Institute.
“Graduate students that work with us get a good grounding in those skills that you can’t teach in an academic context. You can’t teach people how to form strong, ethical relationships that will last a long time, you can’t teach people to problem-solve some of those crises that occur in the real research world: that’s the stuff you learn in doing research.”
She adds that Te Kotahi Institute also works with a range of advisors internationally, to help ensure its research is connected to whānau and hapū but also connected internationally. “The great thing for me about working in partnership with others is it’s not all about us as academic researchers, it’s about being part of a bigger team, building community relationships and building momentum. We try to leave communities with more research capacity at the end of our projects than they had at the beginning.”
Researchers from the Institute have led and facilitated projects in a number of areas, including homelessness, suicide prevention, sexual violence, historical trauma and the impact of colonisation on whānau.
Alongside their research in the area of healing from trauma and violence, researchers within Te Kotahi have also investigated the wellbeing of tamariki and mokopuna, and worked with whānau who have had babies in Neonatal Intensive Care units and shared their insights with Māori medical students and midwife organisations.
Institute director, Associate Professor Leonie Pihama, highlights that critical to the work undertaken by Te Kotahi is a commitment to Kaupapa Māori and working in ways that support whānau, hapū, iwi and Māori organisations to be self-determining in their research aspirations.
“We are thankful to have strong iwi support through Te Rōpū Manukura which includes representatives from Iwi that are connected to the University of Waikato, and the wide Māori networks that we work alongside. At Te Kotahi we ensure that the research we engage in is defined by the aspirations and questions that come from our communities. That is what drives and inspires all of the researchers that we work with across the country.”
This is echoed by Professor Smith who notes, “We’re not working in a vacuum, we’re working as part of a larger momentum of research with a commitment to the wellbeing of our whānau, hapū and iwi; the wellbeing of our people, our environment, our institutions and our practices.”