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Message from the Academy Chair - Professor Charlotte Macdonald

Professor Charlotte Macdonald shares her first foreword as Chair of the Academy Executive Committee.

Tēnā koutou katoa, warm greetings for the Spring – Kōanga edition of the Fellows’ newsletter, and my first as the Chair of the Academy Executive Committee. I am honoured to have been elected to this position and look forward to working with the AEC and for the Fellows within the wider life of Te Apārangi Royal Society of New Zealand.

At the powhiri held to welcome new members of the Council to Royal Society Te Apārangi last month (myself, President-elect Dr Brent Clothier, Constituent Organisations’ representative Cate Macinnis-Ng, Branches’ representative Jenny Pollock) Te Āti Awa kaumātua Peter Jackson reminded us that the place on which we were standing in the Society's building in Thorndon’s Turnbull Street was once a garden. That garden supported kainga of Te Āti Awa living at Pipitea close to the shores of Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington harbour).

As a historian I’m always delighted to be taken back in time. In this case to life in a familiar place that can be reached across just a few generations. What we also heard and felt in Peter’s whaikorero, and in the response given by Ngati Maniapoto kaumatua Barney Anderson, and in the echoing calls of kaikaranga from Pekaia Rei and Stacy Whitiora, was Royal Society Te Apārangi in 2020 and reaching to the future. These were words of spring, of new growth, of the fresh directions in which Te Apārangi is moving. The Academy occupies a central place in Te Apārangi and I look forward to building on the steps taken in recent years to expand the basis for knowledge recognition. 

While we look forward to spring, we are all also dealing with a year in which nothing has been usual or predictable. 2020 has brought events that have delivered change that is abrupt, alarming and full of unknowns: a year of rupture. On the one hand, as a research community we can feel pride, and gratitude, that our national leadership has taken an evidence-based approach, placing Aotearoa New Zealand in an enviable global position in the fight against COVID-19. The work of Fellows involved in the response of recent months is especially acknowledged. On the other, we know that we are only part way along the path that began in this country in March. And that for many people, younger generations particularly, the upheaval has been one that poses deep questions about their own and their society’s future. As an Academy it is timely for us to be engaged with these priorities.

On behalf of the AEC and the Academy as a whole I would like to very sincerely thank my predecessor Professor Richard Blaikie for his skillful and effective leadership over the past three years. At the Society's office Marc Rands has taken up the role as Academy Executive Officer following Gill Sutherland’s retirement.

I look forward to working with you all, and hearing from you. 

Charlotte Macdonald FRSNZ
Professor of History