Coloniality, institutional racism and white fragility: A wero to higher education


  • Hinekura Smith Unitec Institute of Technology
  • Jade Le Grice University of Auckland
  • Sonia Fonua University of Auckland
  • David Tokiharu Mayeda University of Auckland



coloniality, white fragility, Indigenous knowledges, higher education


Coloniality in Aotearoa’s education systems has persisted by forcing Māori to assimilate into Western norms, tracking Māori into subordinate occupational roles, and constraining Māori self-determination. Through use of storytelling, we demonstrate how these trends carry on in present-day tertiary education settings. We also issue to colleagues and management in the tertiary education sector a wero (challenge) to inspect dimensions of white fragility. Our wero challenges colleagues to move beyond their pedagogical comfort zones by learning and incorporating Indigenous knowledges into their teaching beyond surface level. For university management, our wero call on leadership to lead institutional conversations on white privileges and white fragilities, such that academic staff cannot perform a white agility by nimbly dancing around decolonial education initiatives.


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Author Biographies

Hinekura Smith, Unitec Institute of Technology

Hinekura Smith is a Māori woman, teacher, weaver and Kaupapa Māori researcher who descends from the Te Rarawa and Ngā Puhi people of Aotearoa New Zealand. With over 25 years’ experience as a Māori educator, she began her career as a Māori language school teacher, before moving into tertiary education, lecturing and research. Hinekura’s research interests weave together Māori identity politics, decolonising education, Indigenous arts-based research methodologies and Māori and Indigenous doctoral supervision and support. She is currently the director of Ngā Wai a Te Tui Māori, an Indigenous Research Centre in Auckland, New Zealand.

Jade Le Grice, University of Auckland

Jade Sophia Le Grice is Indigenous to Aotearoa New Zealand, from Northern tribes Te Rarawa and Ngā Puhi. She works as a Senior Lecturer in Psychology and Associate Dean Māori in Science at Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland. Her research explores the socio-cultural contexts of Indigenous lives informed by colonial pressures, and the vibrancy of Indigenous ways of knowing and being. Current research projects explore sexual violence prevention, youth wellbeing, reproduction and sexual health. Jade is inspired by Māori people working collectively and innovatively in community contexts, and their aspirations for future generations. Her work informs academic publications, psychology curricula and health policy. She is a member of Ngā Kaitiaki Mauri, of Te Ōhakī a Hine: National Network Ending Sexual Violence Together and He Paiaka Totara, a network of Māori psychologists.

Sonia Fonua, University of Auckland

Sonia M. Fonua is Pāpālangi (New Zealand European) and was born and raised in Aotearoa New Zealand. She is married to her Tongan husband and their sons are her inspiration to improve the education system for all Pacific peoples. She has been working in higher education for 20 years, recently completing her PhD, Ha’otā: Transforming Science Education in Aotearoa New Zealand for Tongan Students, in Critical Studies in Education within the Faculty of Education and Social Work, Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland. Her research interests focus on ethnic disparities in education, relational practices, and embedding Moana/Pacific knowledge and ways of being in science teaching and learning spaces.

David Tokiharu Mayeda, University of Auckland

David Tokiharu Mayeda is an Asian American Senior Lecturer of Japanese and European heritage, now working in Sociology and Criminology at Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland. He completed his PhD at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in 2005, where his work focused on youth violence prevention with Hawaiian and diverse Pacific communities. Since working in Aotearoa New Zealand, his research and community work has focused on Māori and Pacific educational success and evaluation of youth programs that draw on Māori knowledge-bases to enhance adolescent wellbeing.


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How to Cite

Smith, H., Le Grice, J., Fonua, S., & Mayeda, D. T. (2022). Coloniality, institutional racism and white fragility: A wero to higher education. The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, 51(2).




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