Telling the story of our researcher whānau – Madeline Shelling

We asked Madeline Shelling from Ihi Research what drives her research, and how it is important to her to re-indigenise research to create a more effective policy for addressing food systems that recognise and support whānau, hapu, and iwi to battle against food insecurity.

Kia ora Madeline, tell us about you and your research?

Ko Madeline tōku ingoa 😊

He uri tēnei nō Ngāti Porou, heoi i tipu ake au ki Te Awaroa, ki Kaipara, ā, kei te noho au ki Ōtautahi! 

My research is about reconceptualising how we understand, analyse and measure food security in Aotearoa. The same measurement has been used for years, and although this provides a time-series of data, it doesn’t encapsulate the lived realities and experiences of Māori food systems. Rather than simply measuring income – which isn’t necessarily correlative nor causative with food security – many traditions, values, skills and mātauranga contribute to food security, and these are often omitted from research. There also needs to be a better framework for acknowledging the broad and deep causes, and colonial roots of food insecurity.

There is an important tension and connection between food security and food sovereignty that, if acknowledged in our measures and our policies, could be very valuable for future food security initiatives and policies!

When we spoke back in September you talked about honouring Te Tiriti in your research and re-indigenising not just decolonising research. Tell us about that.

The learning journey that my participants have taken me on through this research has been amazing. They taught me that a decolonial lens can address the inequities in our food system, which are embedded in our historical context. They also opened my eyes to the theoretical shift that is happening, and reindigenising research as the next step. Te Ao Māori has so much to offer in terms of values, knowledge and customs that can contribute to a sustainable and equitable food system for all.

Reindigenising is about meaningfully and respectfully engaging with Māori knowledge systems to not just influence, but to transform our research, our food systems, our values and practices to support our hauora, our whānau and our environment.

You’ve mentioned there is a time to sit around and theorise and a time to do. How does that look to you?

Academics can very easily get caught up in the theory space of their work, and forget that unless it has real-world application, it is not going to go far. As I am writing, I have to constantly remind myself who this research is for and how it can help my whānau, my community, or the environment.

Covid-19 was a great reminder throughout this research that our food system is deeply inequitable and that we need alternatives. With increasing climate change affecting all of us, we desperately need to transform how we view the environment, how we grow our food, how we consume, how we prioritise relationships and connection. And not just on paper, but in real life.

We’ve spoken about our Symposium next year and how we can codesign the space and content. What would be important for you as a wahine Māori researcher to see in this space?

Facilitating connection and relationships.

I have done the last two years of my PhD from a distance which has been hard not being under the nose of my supervisors. It also means I’m a bit behind in my career, forming connections with other researchers and people in the research or academia space. I would love to meet more people, talk about what they do and how they do it, especially as I start the exciting new phase of my working life once this thesis is submitted!

Community Research


Get the latest news updates sent directly to your email.

Sign Up
Back to top