The University of Auckland’s annual report for 2020 shows that “the proportion of Māori and Pacific staff [full-time equivalent] in academic and professional positions has fallen slightly short of the target values.”
In 2020, Māori made up 6.1% of staff in academic positions, and 6.7% of staff in professional positions. Pacific staff numbers are lower, making up 2.6% of staff in academic positions and 6.7% of staff in professional positions.
According to the report, “the percentage of Māori in professional positions remains stable compared to 2019, while the proportion of Māori in academic positions, as well as the proportions of Pacific individuals in both academic and professional positions, have all shown small improvements.” Despite this, the university fell short of its targets for Māori and Pacific staff numbers for 2020.
Despite many of New Zealand’s universities setting targets to increase their numbers of Māori and Pacific staff, they are still widely under-represented in professional academic roles. In their article ‘Why Isn’t My Professor Māori?’, McAllister, Kidman, Rowley & Theodore found that between 2012 and 2017, Māori made up around 5% of the academic workforce nationally. Additionally, this research found that the numbers of Māori staff employed by universities did not increase over this time.
According to McAllister, Kidman, Rowley & Theodore, “this finding raises questions about the will of institutions to build a sustainable Māori academic workforce, their level of commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the notion of partnership, and the efficacy of academic equity and diversity policies.”
“The results further show that Māori are more likely to be employed in less senior academic positions with fewer opportunities for career advancement than Pākehā, and that the gendered hierarchies of academia are reflected in the positions held by Māori men and women.”
McAllister, Kidman, Rowley & Theodore also argue that hiring practices favor Pākehā candidates, and that the numbers of qualified Māori candidates are increasing.
Kayla*, who worked as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) at the University of Auckland last year, says that her experience echoes the findings of research on the subject.
“I was the only Māori tutor in the paper I was working as a GTA in. The majority of lecturers in my subject, both at Auckland and other universities, are Pākehā.”
Kayla also says there are unique pressures that come with being the only Māori tutor or lecturer within a paper. “A lot of the time our cultural knowledge isn’t valued which can be very frustrating. There is also a lot of pressure to be the one that deals with all the questions about Māori topics from Pākehā colleagues. In one of the assignments in the paper I was teaching last year, if students would bring up Te Tiriti-related issues in their assignments I was always the one who would be asked to mark it or assess whether they had done a good job. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people asking me about that, but it’s frustrating to be the only one that people think they can turn to for that knowledge, because there are no other Māori staff.”
In the face of these challenges, Kayla is hopeful for the future. “If I go on to keep working in this area one day, that’s one more Māori teacher out there. I never really got to be taught by someone who looked like me, so I hope that I can be that for someone else.”
*Name has been changed to protect the student’s identity.
Sources: McAllister, T. G., Kidman, J., Rowley, O. & Theodore, R. F. (2020). Why isn’t my professor Māori? A snapshot of the academic workforce in New Zealand universities. MAI Journal, 8(2), 235-249.