May 18, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Maori Academics receive prestigious awards

3 min read

PM John Key, has awarded leading biological scientist, Professor Michael Walker (Te Whakatohea) from The University of Auckland, with this years Prime Ministers Supreme Award for tertiary teaching excellence.

The prestigious award was the highlight at the Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award ceremony, which celebrated twelve of New Zealands finest tertiary teachers as recognised by their organisations, colleagues and learners alike. The event was jointly hosted at Parliament by the Minister for Tertiary Education Steven Joyce, and Allan Peachey MP, Chairperson of the Education and Science Committee.

The awards are managed and administered by Ako Aotearoa The National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence. They aim to recognise and celebrate excellence in tertiary teaching; providing an opportunity for teachers to share with others the good practice that has proven to benefit their learners. Ako Aotearoa Senior M?ori Development Manager, Ngahiwi Apanui said, Professor Walkers pioneering work to reverse patterns of under-achievement among Maori and Pacific Island students has transformed the lives of thousands of students. He is a rare educator, whose impact goes beyond the university campus benefiting wh?nau and the community at large.

Professor Walker, from the School of Biological Sciences at The University of Auckland, is of Te Whakat?hea descent and continues a wh?nau legacy of academic excellence.

He established the Tuakana Programme more than 20 years ago to improve retention rates for Maori and Pacific science students, particularly in their first academic year.

The innovative programme has been so successful that it has been rolled out across all university faculties. The sustained support, vision and hard work Michael has provided to the students, their whanau, hapu and iwi, is acknowledged as a key contributor in the elevation of successful outcomes for these students.

A steady stream of Maori and Pacific students now leave the university with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. Many bridge the transition to PhD study and go on to join the university teaching staff. One such former student of the programme attests to being the first in her family to consider tertiary education, and now all her first cousins are enrolled. She comments that

this shift epitomises the vision and goals of Prof. Walker and of Tu?kana, of using success to breed success.

He is described as a rare breed that easily bridges the cultural divide. A colleague attests, he has led a quiet revolution teaching Maori about science and scientists about M?ori bringing Maori worldviews and perspectives, tikanga, and te reo, into his research and teaching. He helps his non-Maori learners connect with the world of Maori and assists all learners in linking course content to their future lives and the wider society.

Professor Walker also received of one of two sustained excellence in teaching in a kaupapa Maori context awards worth $20,000. As Supreme Awardee, he received an additional $10,000.

Sandra Lee Morrison (Te Arawa, Ngati Maniapoto, Ngati Rarua), who is a senior lecturer/associate dean at the School of Maori and Pacific Development, The University of Waikato, was the other recipient of the kaupapa Maori category award.

In addition, ten other top teachers received awards under the sustained excellence in tertiary teaching category, worth $20,000 each.

Emeritus Professor Noeline Alcorn, Chair of the Tertiary Teaching Awards Committee says, This years winners of tertiary teaching awards all care passionately about making a difference to students, by passing on a passion for their subject or the natural world, and by developing skills, understandings and dispositions that help students succeed not just in class but in the wider world of work, family and society.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards. To date there have been 132 award recipients.

For more information please visit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.