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Otago honours Maori health leader

Wednesday 9 July 2008

Otago honours Maori health leader

Distinguished Māori academic and mental health leader Professor Mason Durie will receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Otago at its August graduation ceremony. Professor Durie graduated from the University with the degrees of MB, ChB in 1963. He has gone on to become a leading figure in the promotion of Māori health and social progress.

University Vice-Chancellor Professor David Skegg says Professor Durie is an outstanding Otago graduate whose achievements in several fields have benefited the nation’s health and wellbeing.

“I am delighted that the University has this opportunity to honour Professor Durie for his significant clinical, academic and professional contributions in areas that include health, social policy, education and development.

“In particular, he has played a major role in New Zealand’s adoption of the community psychiatric model and the incorporation of Māori perspectives into health care provision,” Professor Skegg says. His model of Te Whare Tapa Wha, which recognises four dimensions to health, has been highly influential for several decades, he says.

The model incorporates taha wairua (spiritual well-being), taha hinengaro (mental and emotional well-being), taha tinana (physical well-being) and taha whānau (social well-being). Professor Durie is of Rangitane, Ngati Kauwhata and Ngati Raukawa descent. He grew up in Feilding and attended Te Aute College. Following his medical studies at the University of Otago, he took up a two-year internship in Palmerston North, after which he gained a postgraduate qualification in psychiatry at McGill University in Canada.

He then returned to become Director of Psychiatry at Palmerston North Hospital, where he was a highly-respected clinician. He was a member of the Royal Commission on Social Policy from 1986 until 1988. In 1988, he was appointed to the Chair in Māori Studies at Massey University. He is currently Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Māori), Professor of Māori Research and Development at Massey and acting Pro Vice-Chancellor of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

In his academic career, he has published influential books and articles about Māori health, education, social policy and workforce development. In June of this year, Professor Durie received the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists’ Mark Sheldon prize for meritorious work in service provision and research to advance knowledge and understanding of indigenous mental health.

He was named Public Health Champion of 2003 by the Public Health Association of New Zealand. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 1995. In 2001, he was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit and became a Fellow of the New Zealand Academy of Humanities in 2007. Professor Durie has served on a number of community and national organisations including: the National Health Committee; the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology; the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa; the Law Commission (Maori Advisory Committee); the Mental Health Foundation; the Alcohol Advisory Council; the New Zealand Board of Health; the Families Commission; and the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Maori Health.

He is Chairman of the Guardians of Secondary Futures, a project set up to encourage discussion and debate about the role and purpose of secondary education in New Zealand 20 years from now. Professor Durie will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the University’s graduation ceremony on Saturday 16 August. He will also deliver the graduation address.


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