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Student Profiles

Kura Paul-Burke
Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Whakahemo

Doctor of Philosophy (Environment Studies)

Background Summary:

I first enrolled with Awanuiārangi for my Masters. I remember walking into my first class and thinking this was the world I had been searching for and had never been able to find. The wānanga delivered not just learning within Te Ao Māori, but theoretical articulation, analysis, indigenous theory, critical thinking. It brought new awareness at a deeper critical level, and made me really think and challenge myself.

My research into taonga species and mussels in Ohiwa harbour centred on marine management of natural resources, positioning mātauranga Māori alongside Western decision-making frameworks. It has benefited people more than I dared hope. The findings and recommendations from my research – which was initiated by hapū and iwi, and conducted through the perspective of an indigenous lens – have been implemented in regional policy, in the Ohiwa harbour strategy, and have become pivotal to the health of our harbour. Today’s environmental decision makers must widen the lens because our biodiversity globally is declining at an alarming rate: we have to look further than Western science.

I loved writing my PhD thesis; I loved the whole process. It’s hard work, and like anything else worth having in life, you’ve got to be committed. I started the scientific field research in 2013, including diving surveys and working with iwi, and I wrote my thesis in 2014 and 2015. I was awarded a doctoral fellowship and having that support from Awanuiārangi was pivotal.