"Teachers enter the profession because they want to make a difference. This approach helps them do that."

MORE THAN 30 years ago when Russell Bishop first started teaching at Mana College in Porirua, he was struck by a single question: Why did so many Māori students start out well but still fail as they went through school?

"To generate good health policy you need to ensure that the younger population doesn't miss out."

"We are taking a strengths-based approach. So that teachers can go from where they are now to where they want to be."

AS EVERY CHILD knows, learning to read means first cracking a code. The next challenge is reading to learn – when you move from just identifying the words to extracting deeper comprehension.

Without Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, New Zealand research on evolution hailed as a breakthrough by the world's leading news media would never have happened.

LIKE MANY A scientific race, it came down to the wire. When Dr Shane Wright, at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland, published new findings on the speed of evolution in top scientific journal, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, a rival team from Florida followed home just three weeks behind.

At Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga we now manage a database of well over 500 Māori scholars. Twenty five ago years ago Māori academics were so few we'd have had no need for the resource. As for Māori PhDs, with a national total of around 20, some academics would have been realistically able to name them all.

For Māori artists, as any other, recognition overseas can be vital. While sculptor Dr Brett Graham (Ngāti Korokī Kahukura) and audio-visual artist Rachael Rākena (Kāi Tahu, Ngā Puhi) had already built a strong following at home, their success at the prestigious Venice Biennale in 2007 was confirmation of Māori-inspired art’s international impact – and fulfilled a dream of exhibiting at a major world venue.

Everyone was blown away
It never pays to underestimate the power of determination. When Patricia (Trish) Johnston (Ngaiterangi, Ngāti Pikiao) arrived to take up the position as Professor of Postgraduate Studies and Research at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi she asked about basic research at the Wānanga and was told by one staff member it was something they didn’t do.

How do birds navigate vast oceans, correcting themselves when blown off-course? The inner compass possessed by some animals is an enigma that has absorbed Professor Michael Walker, Joint Director Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, for many years. His breakthrough in extracting magnetite – the iron mineral also known as lodestone – from yellowfin tuna established a physical basis for this creature’s ability to detect the Earth’s magnetic field and was published in Science magazine in 1984.

Like all research centres, Ngä Pae o te Märamatanga pursues research excellence through academic communities. But our brief also extends outwards – aiming to also benefit many other communities as widely as possible. In doing this, the Knowledge Exchange programme is a unique feature of the Centre, and an essential part of achieving social transformation.

A few sleepless nights may well have been all to the good for Sarah-Jane Paine. She successfully completed her doctorate in 2006 on key factors affecting sleep and how they might be affected by ethnicity and socio-economic factors – and in the process became one of 500 new Mäori PhDs last year.

In a paper published in the international Journal of Biological Rhythms, Sarah-Jane, who isfrom Tühoe iwi, saw a prevalence of both “morning people” and ”night owls” in New Zealand.