Prestigious honours for Rawinia Higgins and Maria Bargh

Two Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington academics have received top honours from the Royal Society Te Apārangi.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Māori Professor Rawinia Higgins (Tūhoe) has received the Pou Aronui Award for her work in Māori language revitalisation. The award recognises distinguished service to the humanities—aronui, over a sustained period of time.

Associate Professor Maria Bargh (Te Arawa, Ngāti Awa) has received the Puāwaitanga Award for her internationally recognised research on political economy and environment. Te Puāwaitanga is awarded biannually in recognition of research that has made an eminent and distinctive contribution to Te Ao Māori and indigenous knowledge.

The awards were presented on 5 November at an event at Government House in Wellington.

Professor Higgins was co-principal investigator of Te Kura Roa, a three year Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga Pae Tawhiti initiative on the value of the Māori language, which examined state and community responsiveness to Māori language revitalisation efforts in Aotearoa New Zealand.

As part of that project, she co-developed a new theoretical model for Māori language revitalisation which has since been adopted in the policy frameworks of a number of Crown agencies.

Professor Higgins chaired the review of the Māori language bill and the findings of that review were adopted in the new legislation Te Ture mō Te Reo Māori 2016: The Māori Language Act 2016. She also led changes to the policy framework to allow Māori organisations and government entities to implement the necessary changes aligned with the new legislation.

She was appointed Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Māori) at the University in 2016 and was previously Head of School of Te Kawa a Māui—School of Māori Studies.

Associate Professor Maria Bargh, from Te Kawa a Māui, has made an outstanding and impactful contribution to research within the university and in collaboration with Māori communities. Two interweaving strands of her work—political economy and environment—contribute to self-determination for Māori, build Māori and Indigenous knowledges and practices, and are radically reshaping how Aotearoa New Zealand responds to environmental issues.

Associate Professor Bargh is an active commentator in the media on Maori politics, representation, and issues around Māori rights.

Maria’s political economy research increases the impact Māori have at local government levels, through investigating and highlighting unfulfilled obligations of councils to mana whenua in their areas. Local government staff have directly sought her advice on those Treaty obligations, Māori political participation and engagement and advice about online voting for Māori.

Maria’s environmental research includes renewable energy, biodiversity and climate change projects. Her ‘Tika Transition Toolbox’ has been widely discussed and led to her appointment by local government on the Greater Wellington Regional Council Climate Committee. Central and local government are implementing policies around climate change adaptation and Maria’s Toolbox factors Māori rights and interests into transitions to a low carbon economy.

More information is available on the awards at the Royal Society te Aparangi, here for Professor Higgins and here for Associate Professor Maria Bargh.