Lily gained her doctorate in social anthropology from Massey University in 2010, with research on Awataha Marae in Northcote, Auckland. The research explored innovation of Māori tradition through three periods of cultural renaissance.
She recently completed a Health Research Council Erihapeti Rehu-Murchie Postdoctoral Fellowship, based in the Research Centre for Māori Health & Development, Massey University. Her research investigated the life experiences of Māori women who have been incarcerated, ultimately to garner a better understanding of the multitude of factors which lead to incarceration, but which might also redirect lives toward more positive and fruitful endeavours.
Lily is also commited to the development and growth of indigenous anthropology, and contributing to an international network of indigenous scholars. At present she is engaged in supporting Māori student research and building community research capability, as well as working towards translating the findings of her postdoctoral research into practical action.