Māori scholar who transformed psychology honoured

By Te Ao - Māori News

Professor Linda Waimarie Nikora from the University of Auckland’s faculty of arts has been awarded a top medal from the Royal Society of New Zealand Te Apārangi.

Nikora (Tūhoe, Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti) was the first lecturer in kaupapa Māori psychology and then the first Māori professor of psychology.

She has been awarded the 2021 Royal Society Te Apārangi Te Rangi Hiroa Medal for her work transforming psychology for Māori and Aotearoa.

This medal is awarded biennially for undertaking work of great merit and making an outstanding contribution toward the advancement of work in social history, cultural diversity, socioeconomics or medical anthropology.

Nikora is committed to reshaping her discipline and creating room for Māori academics, researchers and students within the academy.

While at the University of Waikato, she became the first Māori to be appointed to a permanent position in psychology in the country, and later became the first lecturer in kaupapa Māori psychology and then the first Māori professor of psychology.

Alongside colleagues, she established the Māori and Psychology Unit (MPRU) at Waikato which has been central to the rise of mātauranga Māori-focused research, with projects ranging from Māori sexuality and media representation to homelessness and energy conservation.

Te Rangihiroa connection

Early in her career, she also championed the recognition of Treaty of Waitangi responsibilities in the New Zealand Psychological Society, which led to the establishment of the bicultural national standing committee on bicultural issues (NSCBI) of the New Zealand Psychological Society.

Her current research about the value of kapa haka combines with her interests in Māori ways of mourning, traditional body modification, socioeconomic determinants of health, relationship health and social connectedness.

She says it’s a privilege to receive the Te Rangihiroa Medal and deeply meaningful.

“Te Rangihiroa [Sir Peter Buck], a taniwha of the Māori Academy, has always been a presence in my life and the many households I grew up in. The works of Te Rangihiroa remain seminal classic texts for mātauranga and inspiration.”

Professor Nikora has written five books, including her co-authored, award-winning book Mau Moko: The World of Māori Tattoo (2007), alongside numerous research articles.

She is co-director of Ngā Pae O Te Maramatanga, New Zealand’s Māori Centre of Research Excellence, and the architect of its new research programme and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society Te Apārangi in 2018.

She is a professor of indigenous studies at Te Wānanga o Waipapa School of Māori and Pacific Studies at Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland.

This medal is awarded biennially for undertaking work of great merit and making an outstanding contribution toward the advancement of work in social history, cultural diversity, socioeconomics or medical anthropology.