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Published 17 October 2018

2018 Te Kōpūnui Māori Research Award: Moving past 'Once were Warriors' to a better understanding of Māori men

Dr Mohi Rua has received the Royal Society Te Apārangi Te Kōpūnui Māori Research Award for his innovative research on poverty, homelessness and Māori men's health, which is challenging the relevance of mainstream Anglo-American psychology for Maōri and other indigenous peoples. This new award recognises innovative Māori research by promising early career researchers.

Dr Mohi Rua (Ngai Tūhoe, Ngāti Awa and Ngāti Whakaue) is the Co-Director of the Māori and Psychology Research Unit and a Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of Waikato. The Maori & Psychology Research Unit (MPRU) is a research and teaching entity that acts as a catalyst and support network for research concerning the psychological needs, aspirations and priorities of Māori. A registered psychologist, Mohi's research focuses on understanding and addressing issues of poverty, homelessness and health inequities and their impacts on Māori more broadly. 

His PhD thesis (2015), as well as his Nga Pae o te Maramatanga funded research (2012-2014) with Māori men, has brought a much needed critical lens to a research field that has otherwise positioned Māori men as a 'problem to be solved'. Mohi's research clearly shows that there is much more to the lives of Māori men than the crude and negative colonial constructions of Māori men in the media and social science research.

Working alongside Māori men, Mohi has shown that their self-conceptualisations are compatible with being carers, nurturers and positive contributors to their communities. Far from being emotionally detached from their loved ones or engaged in violent behaviour, the Māori men in Mohi's studies are constantly engaged in practices of whanaungatanga (sense of relational connectedness) with whānau, friends, work colleagues and communities. They have personal agency in their capacity to articulate and present a more complex and humane version of themselves whilst challenging the pernicious stereotypes of them routinely portrayed in the media and academic literature.

The award selection committee noted that his scholarly and cultural knowledge of Māori urbanisation as well as his extensive community networks allow him to theorise and investigate societal and psychological issues through 'engaged community scholarship' as well as devising effective responses to these issues. 

On receiving this award Mohi said: “When I was told I’d received the award I thought they’d got it wrong. ‘Not me surely. I’m just a Māori boy from Kawerau and Ruatoki.’ But I’m very grateful and honoured, and, obviously, this recognition isn’t mine alone. It belongs to the countless number of people who’ve assisted and guided my personal and professional development. Too many to name but they know who they are and I’m forever in their debt. Hopefully I can continue to do them proud.”

Mohi has gained research grants from the Marsden Fund, the Health Research Council of New Zealand and has been appointed as the Mauri Ora theme co-leader for Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga. He is the Principal Investigator on the Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga funded 'Connections and Flows: Precarious Māori Households in Austere Times' (2016-2019) and an Associate Investigator on the National Science Challenge funded 'Te Manaaki o te Marae: the Role of Marae in the Tamaki Makaurau Housing Crisis' (2017-2019). He was a researcher on the award-winning book Mau Moko – the World of Māori Tatoo (Te Awekotuku and Nikora, 2007) and associated Marsden Fund project. His PhD, completed in 2015, was titled Māori men's positive and interconnected sense of self, being and place.

Mohi has been invited to  present his work at various hui and international conferences as well as having being invited to join the editorial board of a leading international journal in indigenous studies (ab-Original: Journal of Indigenous Studies and First Nations and First Peoples' Cultures). He is also a peer reviewer for national and international journals.

Royal Society Te Apārangi Te Kōpūnui Māori Research Award:

For an early career researcher to recognise innovative Māori research with a promising trajectory.


To Mohi Robert Rua for innovative research on poverty, homelessness and Māori men’s health which  is redefining the field of indigenous psychology and challenging the relevance of mainstream Anglo-American psychology for Māori and other indigenous peoples.

Source: Royal Society Te Apārangi