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Source: New Zealand Governor General

E nga rau rangatira mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi nui ki a koutou. Kia ora mai tātou katoa.

I would like to specifically acknowledge

  • Emeritus Professor Sir Mason Durie
  • Professor Arohia Lady Durie, and
  • The Chancellor of Massey University, Michael Ahie, and Mrs Janine Ahie

It doesn’t seem like 20 years since Te Mata o te Tau was launched. As one of the founding Fellows – and a former colleague to many of you here tonight, I am honoured to mark this milestone with you all, and to join you in celebrating Māori research excellence and scholarship.

We can all be proud of the long line of scholars and researchers who have been supported by the Academy over the years. The vision of the academy was that of Emeritus Professor Sir Mason Durie, who deserves our especial thanks and gratitude for the part he played in establishing the Academy’s kaupapa of whanaungatanga and interdisciplinary exchange. He was ably supported by people such as Professor Chris Cunningham and Professor Te Kani Kingi, Dr Maureen Holdaway and others.

This evening we pay homage to Sir Mason for his wisdom and leadership – and the inestimable contribution he has made to Māori scholarship.

As someone who has benefited from his influence, I have committed to use my opportunities as Governor-General to promote the value of education, research and scholarship in informing decisions we make as a country as part of his legacy.

You will be pleased to note that I frequently cite my own experience, beginning at Massey University, as an example of the transformative power of tertiary education. It changed not just mine, but also my family’s life.

In addition, I was enabled to make my own contributions to the kete of knowledge and enjoy a deeply satisfying academic career, as well as a number of NGO and public service leadership roles.

For me the pursuit of knowledge has always been about understanding the world and its people better, so that we may make well informed decisions for the betterment of those most in need, and for ordinary people. As J. William Fulbright said “The rapprochement of peoples is only possible when differences of culture and outlook are respected and appreciated rather than feared and condemned, when the common bond of human dignity is recognized as the essential bond for a peaceful world.

When a researcher hits a road block, or is trying to weather criticism or scepticism of their work, they may falter. That is when the manaakitanga of our colleagues and wider research networks is crucial. We can all be thankful to have experienced that support from Te Mata o te Tau.

We have also benefited from its championing of matauranga Māori knowing that our world is an infinitely richer and more fulfilling place when there is more than just one way of knowing the world. There is Māori foundational knowledge that has legitimacy beyond only that which is widely promulgated. In dealing with the challenges we now face including environmental collapse and demographic shifts, I was able to take this insight with me when I became Chief Executive of the Royal Society Te Aparangi and now, in my role as Governor General.

Whatever our role, wherever we work, we have developed a set of skills that can and do, contribute to public good.

Our ability to foster critical thinking, rational debate and evidence-based approaches is particularly vital at this time when pedlars of misinformation and disinformation are working so hard to undermine confidence in expert knowledge.

I encourage you in your commitment to research and scholarship, and to your quest for a deeper understanding of humanity and our place in the world.

Your work will encourage and enable more informed and effective approaches to the issues of our times.

In talking about knowledge, I am also mindful of what Sir Richard Taylor recently said to me about his belief in the power of creativity and how crucial this is to New Zealand thriving in the future. He said you can’t teach passion and creativity, but you can identify it and nurture it, honing the skills necessary to translate that into an art form and industry. The imagination is a powerful tool.

Thank you all for your contribution to our shared research community, and I wish you every success, with the support of Te Mata o Te Tau, in the years ahead.