Te reo speaker paves the way

PAVING THE WAY: Agnes McFarland, with her award and books, was named the inaugural recipient of the NZARE Ranginui Walker Doctorate award. Photo Louis Klaassen D6292-10

GROWING up in Ruatoki with her great-grandparent,s Agnes McFarland was bought up speaking te reo Maori and learning about the practices of her ancestors.

This upbringing has kept her in good stead and led her to become the inaugural recipient of the New Zealand Association of Research in Education (NZARE) Ranginui Walker Doctorate award. She received the award at the association’s conference last month.

The award was established as a tribute to the late Ranginui Walker and intended to support students engaged in high-quality research in te reo Maori by having their work recognised and honoured at a national and international level.

To qualify, nominees must have completed a high-quality doctoral thesis written in te reo Maori, completed further high-quality research written in te reo Maori and be a current member of the NZARE.

Dr McFarland said she was honoured to be named the first recipient of the award, which celebrated a lifetime of work.

The oldest child in her family, Dr McFarland said she was given to her great-grandparents to be raised in the old ways, as dictated by Maori tradition.

“I grew up with my great-grandparents and they brought 19 of us up. A lot of us were whangai to our great grandparents. We were the oldest of our whanau. My grandparents were still alive when I went to the great-grandparents.

“They also brought my mother up, so we were brought up by the same people.”

Along with providing a good base in Maori language, she said her whanau were kairaranga, or weavers, which helped shape her creative side.

And this came in handy when she was able to provide the artwork for four of her five books – all written in te reo Maori.

Dr McFarland, who lecturers at Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi, said she felt compelled to write the books so her students would have resources. She said she also wanted to inspire them to write in te reo Maori.

“I want to expose my students to writing because if they don’t write we are not going to have any text and there is nothing out there to help them. There is a lot of stuff in English but if they are not writing in te reo Maori, then what are students going to look at in the future.”

Dr McFarland completed a teaching degree at Victoria University, where she majored in te reo Maori and art as well as music, in 1990. She completed her doctorate through Massey University in 2013. Since then she has co-edited three books with fellow academic Taiarahia Black and one – published last year – with Nathan Matthews.

Award pays tribute to Ranginui Walker

The inaugural Ranginui Walker Doctoral Award for a thesis written in te reo Maori is dedicated to the memory of the late academic Ranginui Walker, whose contributions and analyses provided a Maori perspective of the everyday social, cultural and political commentary of New Zealand.

Dr Walker, who affiliates to the Whakatohea tribe, died last year. He was an academic and a member of Maori activist group Nga Tamatoa. He was also secretary of the Auckland District Maori Council from 1969 to 1973 and chairman from 1974 to 1990.

He eventually became the professor and head of Maori studies at Auckland University.