As an activist for indigenous adult education, Sandra Lee Morrison has worked to establish a range of indigenous educational initiatives for children, youth and adults within, and outside of, formal and informal educational settings. As one of the cofounders of the Indigenous Maori and Pacific Adult Education Charitable Trust, she has been active in educating on cross cultural issues and developing culturally diverse approaches to adult education. Of importance to her is tribally based education initiatives and she is part of a ten year project monitoring the success of children who are nurtured in such an initiative. Her educational work extends to the political domain in which she has shown a range of leadership skills to mobilize and legalize indigenous rights.
As the past chair of the governmental Reference group on adult education, Morrison has been a stalwart in defending the rights of Maori and Pacific peoples to take responsibility for their own aspirations while ensuring appropriate resource. It is a tribute to her advocacy skills that she is able to highlight difficult issues with a diplomacy that allows for collective engagement and collective resolution.
Morrison’s academic leadership as a senior lecturer, department head and, more recently, acting Associate Dean has significantly contributed to the institutional growth and stability of the School of Maori and Pacific Development as well as the wider University of Waikato system. She lectures on and researches models for reaffirmation of indigenous perspectives within mainstream organizational structures and is able to incorporate her academic analysis into organizational change. Scholastically, she coauthored two milestone reports, “Ko te tangata, it is people!” and “Kokiri, Advancing Education for Maori.” Both reports are a critical analysis of the impact of government policies on Maori and Pacific adult education. She sits on the editorial board for Convergence, an international adult education journal as well as the editorial board of the New Zealand Journal of Adult Learning.
Known also for her adult education work with the diverse populations throughout the Asia-Pacific., Morrison served as the first indigenous president of the Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education from 2004-2008. ASPBAE is the largest regional non-governmental organization network of adult educators in the Asia South Pacific. The work of the organization includes being an advocate for indigenous peoples’ rights especially indigenous women. Under her role as president, she worked with the Secretary-General to extend and expand the reach of their work through increased global exposure of local and grass roots experiences and action oriented activities in education advocacy. She ensured that the voices of indigenous peoples found an outlet in the world and asserted a rights’ based approach to adult education. More recently, Morrison has been involved in education for the seasonal workers scheme as it impacts on peoples of the Pacific. Morrison now holds the post of immediate past president for ASPBAE, an inaugural position.
Morrison serves as a frequent keynote speaker sharing her ideas in a way that honors the traditions of her past while making connections to the realities and the challenges of the present. An exemplary model of an adult educator, she is able to serve as a bridge between the indigenous world and the mainstream world. Her distinctiveness as an indigenous woman also means that she makes visible indigenous realities to many people who have limited knowledge and experience on indigenous issues and she does so in a manner that is conducive to sound adult learning principles.
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