I joined the University of Waikato staff in 1989 after completing my undergraduate degree. I completed graduate papers in cross-cultural, community, social and ethno psychology and was actively mentored by Professors James and Jane Ritchie, Prof David Thomas, Dr Ngahuia Te Awekotuku and others of the Ernest Beaglehole ‘brand’ of psychology. I designed and taught four courses in Maori development, and initiated an innovative and successful Maori student support system. Through a series of critical symposia in the 1990’s, I secured the foundational networks for the development of indigenous psychology in New Zealand, and successfully worked with the New Zealand Psychological Society [NZPS] to engage its membership with bicultural issues and socially just policies and practices. I have sustained collaborative partnerships with colleagues in the NZ tertiary sector. I was an active member of the work group that wrote the new 2002 Code of Ethics for psychologists in NZ, adopting the Treaty of Waitangi as its pivotal frame of reference. Twice I have had the honour of delivering the keynotes at the NZPS annual conferences in 2000 and 2007.
I am particularly proud of being the founding Director of the Maori & Psychology Research Unit (MPRU) at the University of Waikato. This initiative consumed much of my time as I led the MPRU through growing our capacity and collaborative relationships, increasing our competitive edge and becoming known as a critically Maori focused research group concerned with Maori aspirations. Between 1997-2007, I co-led to completion projects funded by the HRC , Marsden  and FRST . Concurrently, I continued my own PhD work titled:Maori Social Identities in New Zealand and Hawaii, and supervised the theses of 16 Masters students, while providing ongoing Maori guidance across the Psychology Department. I also co-authored with Professor Ngahuia Te Awekotuku the Montana award winning book titled Mau Moko : the World of Maori tattoo (2007).It was voted the Inaugural Maori Book of the Decade.
Since 2007, I have re-focused the research activity of the MPRU to three interconnected areas: Indigenous Psychology, Urban Poverty and Intimate Partner Violence and have built capacity to advance this work linking with partners like the Auckland City Mission, Maori Women’s Refuge, Te Runanga o Kirikiriroa, Te Kohao Health, CYPF’s and my own Maori tribal communities of Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti, and Tuhoe. In these thematic research areas, research teams link with the themes of community, health and heritage reminding us that our work emerges from a socio-cultural ecology that we are all part of. This sharpening of focus means that we build expertise and benefit from cumulative advances in knowledge, the result of good leadership, exciting teamwork with communities of interest, international scholars and students.
More recently, working with colleagues in Maori Studies, we have begun to explore changes in tangi ritual, my keen interest resting on how such practices might counter depression and mental unwellness amongst Maori. Grief and loss are not confined to death, but experienced at community and individual levels through relationship breakups, unemployment, illnesses, property loss, homelessness, disability and ageing, conflict, historical injustices like raupatu, and fragmentation of whanau. These issues require both an applied sociocultural and clinical research focus.
Nikora, L. W. (2006). Maori and psychology: Indigenous psychology in New Zealand. In A. Weatherall, M. Wilson, D. Harper & J. McDowall (Eds.), Psychology in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Auckland [NZ]: Pearson. PDF