Dr Melinda Webber

Melinda is an Associate Professor in Te Puna Wananga at the Faculty of Education and Social Work. She is the Director for the Atlantic Fellows for Social Equity programme, an elected councillor on the governing board of Te Aparangi - The Royal Society of New Zealand, and a former Director of the Starpath Project.

Melinda was also a 2013 Fulbright/Nga Pae o te Maramatanga Indigenous Scholar and has published widely on the nature of ethnic identity development and iwi distinctiveness, examining the ways race, ethnicity, culture and identity impact the lives of young people, particularly Māori students.

In 2016, Melinda was awarded a Marsden Fast-Start grant to examine the enduring identity traits of Ngapuhi, and in 2017 Melinda was awarded a prestigious Rutherford Discovery Fellowship titled "Kia tu rangatira ai nga iwi Māori : Living, succeeding, and thriving as iwi Māori "

Melinda Webber pic

The purpose, power and promise of culturally responsive practice: taking a strengths-based approach to fostering Māori success

In this presentation I will speak about the importance of whanau aspiration, school connectedness, and mana (cultural pride and honour) to Māori student success and wellbeing at school. I argue that if we want to implement school initiatives to increase cultural efficacy, pride and aspiration, and consequently accelerate Māori student potential and wellbeing at school - we need initiatives that acknowledge and speak to the lofty aspirations, goals and rich histories of Māori students.

We must celebrate the whakapapa of Māori students and become more familiar with what enables Māori wellbeing and success at school, and how communities themselves conceptualise it. Sadly, many Māori students never learn about the rich history of scientific endeavour and entrepreneurialism in te ao Māori . Nor, do they experience seeing themselves accoladed in school books as academically exceptional.

Our curriculum should be localised to ensure they learn as much about Sir Hekenukumai Busby, the great ocean navigator, as I they do about Sir Edmund Hillary. We need to ensure Māori students know that they descend from greatness too. We need to arm them with powerful and promising narratives that speak back to the negative stereotypes and ruinous stories about Māori they see in the mainstream media. This 'cultural turn' in education is critical for Māori student wellbeing and engagement in learning.