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Published 4 November 2019

President's speech at 2019 Research Honours Aotearoa

Professor Wendy Larner

Professor Wendy Larner FRSNZ, President of Royal Society Te Apārangi, welcomes guests to the Society's annual awards ceremony, Research Honours Aotearoa, and explains why Te Apārangi is committed to enhancing equity and diversity in our research communities.


Tēnā tātou katoa. Welcome all of you to a very special event – Research Honours Aotearoa 2019.

It feels to me that this last year has just flown by. As you can see from our video montage of the past year, there have been so many significant events have happened since our last Research Honours in 2018. Some momentous, some joyful, others very tragic and others nation changing. 

Looking back, I also reflect on my first year as Te Apārangi President and the work we have been doing to take significant strides and make shifts in approach for the Royal Society. 

In doing this mahi we have been looking backwards he tirohanga whakamuri to our proud history, but also looking forward to think about what we should be doing differently. In particular we have been working hard to understand how we might foster the more diverse forms of excellence that will enhance our shared futures in Aotearoa New Zealand.

In this context I want to begin by acknowledging you all here this evening. As Aotearoa New Zealand’s leading researchers and research organisations with a wide range of networks, communities, whanau and whakapapa, you bring your expert knowledges and outstanding qualities to the debates about our shared futures. 

But given my commitment to: enhancing equity and diversity in our research communities, to better engaging with Māori researchers, mātauranga Māori and Te Ao Māori, and to understanding and supporting the next generation of researchers - you will also understand why I wish to explicitly acknowledge those who are still under-represented amongst us, and also point out that there are still many who are not in the room with us.  

As we look forward to our shared futures we will need new relationships, to really stretch ourselves, be part of new dialogues across disciplines, across organisations, across sectors, and across communities. We will need learn how to listen to those who are not already in the room, those who are not like us. For this is how we will realise the full potential of Aotearoa, by realising the potential of all not just some. 

For us at Royal Society Te Apārangi, this means we have begun to think hard about the new research spaces we need to be in, how we might better engage with regions rohe, and what we would do differently if we were to move from simply ‘broadcasting’ to ‘listening’. 

As an organisation, we now understand we have both a responsibility and a willingness to create cultural change, to not just to engage with those researchers who have traditionally seen our organisation as ‘theirs’, but to use our mana to better engage with New Zealand’s diverse hapori communities and to inspire our rangatahi. 

We have the enormous privilege of living in Aotearoa New Zealand. Personally I can think of nowhere in the world I would rather be right now. But to deliver on our shared ambitions for greatness in Aotearoa, I want to challenge us all to enter into these discussions about more diverse forms of research excellence and the challenging mahi we need to do to foster our shared futures.

In this context, I am delighted that Minister Hon Dr Megan Woods is present with us as we celebrate the achievements of our researchers. Ngā mihi e hoa rangatira. You are a strong voice for equity and diversity in our sector and I salute you for that. 

Ngā mihi to our kaumātua Matapura for the very warm welcome from the mana whenua.

Also our friends from Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, whom we spent another extraordinary evening with last night celebrating Te Takarangi. This a collection made up of 150 beautiful taonga, 150 years rejoicing and reflecting on mātauranga Māori and Te Ao Māori through 150 non-fiction Māori books. This is now woven into the kaupapa and kōrero of 150 years for Otago University. 

In 2017 we celebrated our own 150th anniversary, and thus we acknowledge this 150th milestone for the University of Otago. It is a privilege to be a part of your celebrations with staff and tauira students in Otago. Kia kaha, kia maia.

As I look around the room tonight feeling very proud, I can see many familiar faces and some new young faces representing a new research generation. I want to welcome you in particular - you are our future and the future looks bright. A few others I wish to acknowledge, the remarkable kapa haka group He Waka Kōtuia and the tauria students from Otago who supported our events team. 

Finally, let me thank all our valued sponsors for supporting this celebratory event. Our premium partners: the New Zealand Health Research Council as well as the University of Otago, Callaghan Innovation and NIWA – we are especially grateful for your support. Thanks also to our other sponsors, AUT (Auckland University of Technology), Massey University, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), the Riddet Institute, Te Pūnaha Matatini, the Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies, The MacDiarmid Institute, University of Auckland, University of Canterbury, and Victoria University of Wellington. Without your tautoko support, we could not celebrate the excellence of our researchers in this way.

Nō reira, thank you for being here.

Mauri ora.

Kia ora koutou katoa.


Year in review video montage produced by Aotearoa Science Agency for 2019 Research Honours Aotearoa.

Source: Royal Society Te Apārangi