First masters in Indigenous Studies graduate

Zoe Poutu Fay and Ashlea Williams are two of the first masters graduates in Indigenous Studies at the University of Auckland.

Masters of Indigenous Studies graduates, Ashlea Williams, left, and Zoe Poutu Fay

“Indigenous Studies privileges your position as an indigenous person when carrying out research,” says 26-year-old Zoe Poutu Fay, who is one of the first graduates of the University of Auckland’s new Master of Indigenous Studies programme.

“It allows you to come from your own cultural context and viewpoint. It gave me the opportunity to empower myself to engage with indigenous issues and research.”

Indigenous Studies privileges your position as an indigenous person when carrying out research.

Zoe Poutu Fay

A taught programme, the Masters combines the innovations emerging from the world of indigenous research. It provides a critical analysis of the political, cultural, economic and methodological issues that indigenous peoples deal with in their struggle for self-determination (tino rangatiratanga) and is underpinned by indigenous world views.

"We address a range of indigenous theories from all parts of the world and help our students know how to work with, and alongside, indigenous peoples,” says Dr Arapera Ngaha, one of the founders of the new University programme.

For Zoe, who grew up in Grey Lynn, Auckland with a Māori mother (Ngāti Porou) and an American father (Vermont, US), Indigenous Studies is like coming home.

“It’s a space within the University that values what I value,” she says. “An academic environment that is very accepting of my viewpoint as a Māori woman.”

For her masters Zoe wrote a thesis titled: Hoa (friend) and Haumi (allies): Building Māori and Pākehā relationships in education from a Kaupapa Māori perspective. It drew on her time as a primary school student at Auckland Newton Central school’s immersion unit Te Whänau Rümaki Reo o Te Uru Karaka.

“It was a transformational education and could be used as a blue print for a Kaupapa Māori education model,” she says.

Zoe completed an undergraduate degree with a double major in Māori Studies and Philosophy, and is now planning to do a PhD, building on her Master of Indigenous Studies. She is graduating with fellow Indigenous Studies masters graduate Ashlea Williams, who is also planning to continue to PhD level.

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