Professor Margaret Mutu has been awarded the Pou Aronui Award for her sustained contribution to indigenous rights and scholarship in New Zealand.
The Pou Aronui Award is awarded annually by the Royal Society of New Zealand. It acknowledges distinguished service to the humanities-aronui over a sustained period of time.
Margaret is a Professor of Māori Studies in the Faculty of Arts. She is Chairperson of two of her marae and Te Rūnanga-ā-iwi o Ngāti Kahu, Ngāti Kahu’s parliament.
She received the Pou Aronui Award at a special ceremony in Auckland last night.
She found out she was to receive it about a month ago but had to keep the news secret, only telling a few whānau and friends so they could attend the awards ceremony.
“Some of my whānau accompanied me to the awards dinner so I had to tell them and they are absolutely thrilled. My whānau, hapū and iwi have made huge contributions to my research over the past 40 years so this award recognises them as well,” Professor Mutu says.
“It was also hugely gratifying to see the importance of Māori and indigenous human rights research being recognised by such an august body of scholars and scientists as the Royal Society.”
Professor Mutu says the award is significant as it gives recognition for the work being done to achieve international human rights standards for Māori in New Zealand.
“It highlights the importance for New Zealand of knowing, understanding and acknowledging not only the rightful place of Māori language, culture, tradition and history but also the steps that still need to be taken in order to achieve justice and prosperity for Māori,” she says.
Her current Marsden Fund project explores Māori claimants’ perspectives and experiences of Treaty of Waitangi settlements.
The research has included media and literature searches, including reviewing all of the thousands of submissions made to select committees on treaty settlements conducted to date.
So far she has revealed a large number of serious problems and difficulties with both the process of settling Treaty of Waitangi claims and the settlements themselves and found that benefits arising from the settlements are being obscured by the difficulties and the divisions that the settlements bring to Māori communities.
“The settlement policy and process has been unilaterally determined by successive governments and imposes settlements and structures that often conflict with and disrupt the fundamental values, laws, culture and social structures of those Māori communities,” she says.
Professor Mutu’s next focus is to continue a large number of in depth interviews with claimants and negotiators.