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2020 Pou Aronui Award: Revitalising te reo Māori

Professor Rawinia Higgins (Tūhoe) has been awarded the Pou Aronui Award by Royal Society Te Apārangi for her advances in social policy and development related to Māori language revitalisation.

Rawinia Higgins has dedicated many years of service to humanities-aronui as one of the country’s leading experts on Māori language revitalisation with a speciality in Language Planning and Policy (LPP).

With Professor Poia Rewi, she was Co-Principal Investigator of Te Kura Roa, a three year Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga Pae Tawhiti initiative on the value of the Māori language, which examined state and community responsiveness to Māori language revitalisation efforts in Aotearoa-New Zealand.

As part of that project, she co-developed a new theoretical model for Māori language revitalisation called the ZePA model. It is so named as it identifies three phases of language use (Zero, Passive and Active) as ‘effect areas’ that allows planners, funders and deliverers of Māori language initiatives to be more specific and targeted in their approach and, thereby, more effective. The ZePA model has since been adopted in the policy frameworks of a number of Crown agencies.

She was appointed to chair the review of the Māori language bill and the findings of that review were adopted in the new legislation Te Ture mō Te Reo Māori 2016: The Māori Language Act 2016. This ground-breaking legislation has reframed the policy landscape for the whole Māori language sector using LPP principles, allowing community and government-based inititatives to support Māori language revitalisation and the Act gives true effect to a Treaty of Waitangi-based partnership model, outlining the responsibilities of both Māori and the Crown.  Rawinia also led changes to the policy framework to allow Māori organisations and government entities to implement the necessary changes aligned with the new legislation.

In 2013, Rawinia was the youngest person to be appointed to the Waitangi Tribunal and has served on significant contemporary Treaty claims.

Rawinia is Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Māori) at Victoria University of Wellington – Te Herenga Waka.

As a Māori studies scholar, Professor Higgins is recognised widely amongst Māori communities through her research and continues to advance the boundaries of mātauranga Māori as a means of influencing societal transformation.  Her Te Kura Roa project led to an award-winning book, The Value of the Māori Language: Te Hua o te Reo Māori (2014), which analysed the state of the Māori language 25 years since the introduction of the first Māori Language Act. She has also co-edited the books, The Journeys of Besieged Languages (2016) and Te Ahu o te Reo Māori: Reflecting on research to understand the well-being of te Reo Māori (2017), both of which added to the understanding of language loss and revitalisation.

At the Matariki Awards 2017, she won Te Waitī award for her contributions to te reo and tikanga Māori, and in 2018 she was named Wellingtonian of the Year for Education for her key role in the revitalisation of te reo Māori.

Pou Aronui Award:
For distinguished service to the humanities-aronui.  It recognises contributory and dedicated service to the humanities–aronui over a sustained period.

To Rawinia Ruth Higgins for her advances in social policy and development related to Māori language revitalisation.