Professor Rawinia Higgins

Iwi Affiliations: Ngāi Tūhoe

Finalists: Te Waitī Award for Te Reo and Tikanga


Respected academic and researcher Professor Rawinia Higgins was appointed to the role of Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Māori) at Victoria University of Wellington in 2016.

Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Professor Grant Guilford says he is delighted to have someone of Professor Higgins’ skills and experience taking on this important leadership position at Victoria.

“This appointment will allow Professor Higgins to further extend the significant contribution she has made to Māori development at Victoria University in recent years and to ensure Victoria plays a lead role in driving better outcomes for Māori.

“Her experience and knowledge will be crucial in helping Victoria achieve the objectives in our strategic plan and to building the capacity and capability of Māori staff members.”


Professor Rawinia Higgins joined Victoria University as a Senior Lecturer at Te Kawa a Māui – School of Māori Studies in 2009.

Promotions followed rapidly and she became an Associate Professor in 2012 and a Professor, Head of Te Kawa a Māui and Assistant Vice-Chancellor Māori Research in 2014.

She is a widely acknowledged expert on the revitalisation of te reo Māori, has strong relationships with Māori communities and agencies and provides strategic advice that influences Māori policy development.

Professor Higgins has held many roles on boards, advisory groups and working parties during her career.

She is currently a board member of Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga Centre of Research Excellence and a member of the Waitangi Tribunal.

In addition, she is Deputy Chair of the Tertiary Education Commission’s Māori Knowledge and Development PBRF (Performance-Based Research Fund) panel.

With respected research expertise in Māori language planning and policy, Professor Higgins chaired the review that helped shape the Te Ture mō Te Reo Māori (Māori Language) Act 2016.

The act established Te Mātāwa as an entity to lead te reo Māori revitalisation on behalf of iwi and Māori.

Her governance roles on Māori broadcasting funding agency Te Māngai Pāho and the Māori Language Commission have allowed her to provide strategic advice on language policy in relation to these Crown agencies too.

“To be able to participate in setting the future framework for policy related to language through the Māori Language Act was huge – a career highlight by far.

“As academics, we often talk about influencing policy change and this was policy change and legislation based on our work.”

Professor Higgins has a proven track record of providing leadership at Victoria on matters related to Māori research and mātauranga Māori.

A staunch supporter of Māori development in all its guises, she hopes her senior appointment at such a relatively young age brings a new kind of energy at a strategic level and encourages others to take on leadership roles.

“I have worked in every academic position there is in a university and so have an appreciation of what it is like and what is achievable.

“I believe this experience gives me a clear insight and understanding when developing strategy that supports Māori success and achievement.

“Furthermore, this role relies on the collective input of others and so it is important to build and strengthen relationships across Victoria and beyond to realise our objectives.”