Professor Graham Smith, a prominent Māori educationalist, has been at the forefront of the alternative Māori initiatives in the education field and beyond. His recent academic work has centred on developing theoretically informed transformative strategies related to intervening in Māori cultural, political, social, educational and economic crises. He is involved in the development of Tribal Universities and is the recently retired Chairperson of Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi Council. In his former position as Pro Vice Chancellor (Māori), he was responsible for developing a Māori University structure within The University of Auckland. Professor Smith's earlier training is in Social Anthropology and he completed a MA (Hons) dissertation on Māori Rituals of Encounter. He was the first teacher of a Māori immersion kura kaupapa Māori school (Māori philosophy and principles-based school), which has grown from a single school in 1988 to over 75 publicly funded schools in 1999. His theoretical leadership has informed the emergence of Māori Education Studies as a distinct entity within the Tertiary Sector in particular New Zealand universities. This work has developed a wide-ranging academic discussion centred on Kaupapa Māori Theory, Critical Theory and Transformative Praxis.
Professor Smith has made significant contributions to the political, social, economic and cultural advancement of indigenous Māori communities. He has also worked extensively with other Indigenous/First Nation peoples across the world, including Canada, Hawai'i, USA mainland, Taiwan, Chile, Australia and the Pacific nations. He is a regular contributor to national forums on indigenous issues and has also been an authoritative voice to international forums on indigenous education issues. Professor Smith has been an active contributor to the critical debate on 'race' and 'ethnicity' both in New Zealand and abroad, and maintains a strong influence in the Māori language revitalisation movement. His other specialist interest is in institutional transformations in order to deliver more effectively to and for the interests of indigenous students, faculty and communities.
Professor Smith is one the most influential educators in New Zealand today. He has published widely and is in demand as a commentator on national and international indigenous matters. He is of Ngāti Apa, Ngāti Kahungunu, Kai Tahu and Ngāti Porou tribal descent and is the current CEO/Vice Chancellor of Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi.