Dr Michael Stevens
(Kāi Tahu)

Dr Michael Stevens is a freelance historian with an outward-looking approach to Māori history.

Formerly a Senior Lecturer in Māori History at the University of Otago, his research focuses primarily on southern New Zealand’s colonial and maritime histories, especially as they relate to Kāi Tahu families and communities.

The Judith Binney Fellowship will enable him to complete a book on Bluff, which is his hometown. Currently titled ‘A World History of Bluff’, this book promises to reshape the way people think about the port town by shedding light on its place in the maritime world, its role in New Zealand’s economic development, and patterns of race relations.

This project grew out of his doctorate that focused on two centuries of muttonbirding, which is an important activity within his family and Bluff more generally.

Bluff is important to me personally, it’s very much my ‘abiding place’, but it’s also analytically significant. It has a long-standing and relatively large Māori population while at the same time it is a commercial port and therefore firmly plugged into global networks. Thinking about how these two things have interacted in southern New Zealand over the last 200 years offers a new way to think about New Zealand’s colonial development and its place in the British empire, as well as a more complicated assessment of the consequences of this for Kāi Tahu whānau.


Three Judith Binney Writing Awards have been announced to support research and writing that explores and expands our understanding of New Zealand history.

Ellen Andersen
(Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga, Ngāti Kapu)

Ellen Andersen is a Senior Advisor/Pouarahi Tuakana – Māori Built Heritage, at Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.

Her background is in architecture, design and building conservation. She describes her work as helping whanau/hapū/iwi fix up the buildings that they’d like to keep. This includes helping to preserve and document their various built taonga such as marae buildings, whare karakia, and school houses. ‘Like Marae-DIY,’ she says, ‘but it takes way longer.’

When Ellen is not working on projects with Heritage New Zealand she is busy raising a young family and concentrating on research and writing.

She describes her work as using ‘architecture as a foundation to tell broader stories of innovation, relationships, colonialization, land, Mātauranga, whakapapa, and taonga tuku iho’.

‘The story of Matangireia enables me to present a Māori-centred history, a story of Maori people advocating for a unique Māori space, created by Māori and maintained by Māori throughout its history.’

The former Māori Affairs Committee room or Matangireia was recently used as the film setting for a podcast series of conversations with Māori politicians.

Ellen says her work will analyse the room’s significance in its own right – a detailed account of the space itself.

Ellen is aiming to complete her project by August 2022 when Matangireia notches up 100 years.

Dr Rachel Buchanan
(Taranaki, Te Ātiawa)

Dr Rachel Buchanan is an historian, writer and curator, is the author of three books.

Her most recent book, Ko Taranaki Te Maunga (BWB Text, 2018), was named one of the 20 best non-fiction books of 2018 (The Spinoff) and named book of the week by Stuff (October 2018). She is also the author of The Parihaka Album: Lest We Forget (Huia, 2009), and Stop Press: The Last Days of Newspapers (Scribe, 2013).

Her Judith Binney Writing Award project, ‘Te Motunui Epa: on the trail of a globetrotting taonga’ is a story of discovery and rediscovery, of kidnappers and smugglers, of Lords and lawyers, of pride and betrayal, of private investigators and Bolivian tin magnates, of connoisseurs and carvers and the international trade in stolen goods.

Rachel says: ‘This is a story about art, ownership and power. This is a story about Taranaki. My book will follow one of New Zealand’s most significant cultural treasures on its long journey from a swamp in Waitara to a shed in New Plymouth, to auction rooms in New York and London, to collection stores in Italy and Geneva and, finally back home to Te Papa and then Puke Ariki. Along the way, these five panels – carved “with exquisite skill” in the early nineteenth century in north Taranaki and then hidden in a swamp at Peropero for safekeeping – changed international case law and practices on the protection and repatriation of stolen cultural treasures.’

Ngahuia Murphy
(Ngāti Manawa, Ngāti Ruapani ki Waikaremoana)

Ngahuia Murphy is a Kaupapa Māori researcher committed to initiatives that are healing, decolonial and motivated by social, cultural and ecological justice. Ngahuia says she seeks to rectify a current imbalance in knowledge about the role, status and stories of Māori women.

Her Judith Binney Writing Award project will contribute new knowledge through recovering censored, unknown, and largely unexplored histories of Māori women who she describes as ritual experts.

The work also examines the multiple ways in which Māori, Hawai’ian and Native American women are restoring ritual forms and relationships with pre-colonial feminine deities as a key site of Indigenous sovereignty.  

The Judith Binney Writing Award will allow Ngahuia to prepare her doctorate for publication, and expand understandings of the vibrant and self-renewing continuum of Māori and Indigenous women’s ritual histories.