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Auckland Museum honours outstanding individuals

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The Museum Medals are awarded in recognition of careers with sustained excellence in research and scholarship. Winners in 2015 were Sandra Coney, Paul Spoonley, Haare Williams, Anthony E. Wright.

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira.

Auckland War Memorial Museum last night honoured the careers of four outstanding individuals in its annual Museum Medals ceremony held at the Museum on Tuesday 24  November.

The medals were presented to:

Sandra Coney, QSO
Associate Emerita of Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum
Haare Williams
Companion of Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum
Anthony E. Wright
Associate Emeritus of Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum
Prof Paul Spoonley FRSNZ
Fellow of Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum

Read the full profiles

Auckland Museum Director Roy Clare said: “We’re thrilled to be awarding Museum Medals to these outstanding individuals and acknowledge their contribution and legacy to the wider community. The recipients now join a well-respected and prestigious group of leaders in their field and those who have provided exceptional service to the Museum.  It is a pleasure to honour them and celebrate with their families and friends.” 

In addition, the Sir Hugh Kawharu Scholarship was presented to Ngahuia Murphy a PhD candidate at Waikato University. Now in its second year, the Scholarship comprises a $10,000 grant and is made available to a full-time student of Māori descent who has an interest in cultural heritage.

Ms Murphy’s research will investigate censored and marginalised traditions relating to Māori women, allowing her to interrogate how women’s knowledge, roles, status and stories have been misinterpreted by colonial ethnographers and early accounts of Māori lifeways. She anticipates reinterpreting texts, images and taonga held in Auckland Museum and other collections to identify the cosmological origins of Māori women’s ceremonies, filling important gaps in our knowledge of the negative impacts of colonisation on women and working towards empowering Māori women.

The event also featured a keynote address by Dr Michelle Dickinson MNZM (who also goes by the title ‘Nano Girl’) who spoke on ‘Science is not a Subject - Changing the barriers to learning: how museums empower communities to feel smarter’.

The Museum also acknowledged the recent passing of Director Emeritus Evan Graham Turbott QSO and Companion Prof Johnathan Ngarium Mane-Whaeoki CNZM. 

For more information please contact

Senior Communications Advisor
Suzanne McNicol
+64 9 309 0443, Ext 7185

2015 Museum Medal Recipient Profiles

Sandra Coney, QSO - Associate Emerita of Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum

Ms Coney is a New Zealand local body politician, environmentalist, writer, historian, and women's health campaigner.
Between 2001 and 2010 Sandra represented Waitakere City on the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) and served as Chair of the Parks and Heritage Committee between 2004 and 2010.

In October 2010, she was elected as a representative of the Waitakere Ward on the Auckland Council and was also elected as an independent representative on the Waitemata District Health Board where she heads the disability services committee for Auckland and Waitemata.

In the 2013 Auckland local elections Coney stood down as a councillor. She was re-elected to the Waitemata District Health Board and was elected to a new role as chair of the Waitākere Ranges Local Board. Coney has particular interests in provision of open space, environment and heritage. She is currently chair of Auckland’s Council WW1 Commemoration Political Steering Group.

Ms Coney was the co-founder of the feminist magazine Broadsheet, which she co-edited for 14 years and as a freelance journalist won a number of awards. She is the author or editor of 18 books on topics including history, feminism, and women's health. Her writing work includes the major Suffrage Centennial publication Standing in the Sunshine (1993), which was also a television series. She has also written histories of Piha and its radar station and is currently writing a collective biography of kauri bushmen from the Piha mill who went to WW1.

Ms Coney was made a Companion of Queen's Service Order in the 2010 Queen's Birthday Honours List for her services to women’s health.

Haare Williams – Companion of Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum

Auckland Museum Amorangi, Mr Williams was born in Gisborne, descended from Tuhoe, Rongowhakaata and Aitanga-a-Maahaki and grew up in remote New Zealand on the shores of the Ohiwa Harbour near Opotiki.

He graduated from Ardmore Teachers’ College in 1956, from the University of Auckland with a Diploma in Education in 1973 and a Bachelors of Arts in 1975.  He is passionate about the transformative power of education for Māori and has used many opportunities in his later career to advocate for the importance education for our country’s children. 

After a period teaching, he turned his mind and his mahi to Māori political journalism for many years. Haare pioneered Māori radio as a General Manager of Aotearoa Radio and worked on many initiatives in the wider broadcasting sphere. For example, Haare set up a joint venture with South Seas Film and Television School in Birkenhead for training of speakers of te reo as film and television producers and operators.  

He was an Executive Director of the NZ 1990 Commission, tasked with celebrating 150 years of Māori Pākehā relations by the 1987 Cabinet.  He has worked closely with iwi claimant communities collecting and preparing iwi oral testimonies for presentation before courts and the Waitangi Tribunal. He is often consulted on Māori aspects of education, health, business, art and the media and has worked for the Auckland Mayor as cultural advisor. 

Haare is a Minister of the Ringatū faith and serves the Museum where he is a much-loved poet, raconteur and provider of wisdom and guidance.

Anthony E. Wright – Associate Emeritus of Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum

Mr Wright trained as a botanist, becoming Curator of Botany at Auckland Museum in 1980. After 10 years in this role he progressed through wider collections management and assistant director roles culminating in periods as Redevelopment Director and Acting Museum Director.

Throughout his career Mr Wright has been an active researcher, adding over 16,000 specimens to the Auckland Museum herbarium, which makes him one of the Museum’s most prolific collectors. Ten of his specimens have been used as type specimens for new species, testimony to the consistently high quality of their presentation. His continuing botanical interests are exemplified in his current work towards completing a modern flora of the Three Kings Islands.

Mr Wright has been Director of Canterbury Museum, since 1996 and has overseen increase in visitor numbers of over 65% to a record 665,000 last year. The Canterbury earthquakes of 2010-11 saw the Museum closed for six months, and an extensive recovery and remediation programme is underway. The Museum opened a second down town site in 2013, Quake City, to tell the earthquake stories.

Alongside his Canterbury Museum role, Mr Wright  is Chair of Christchurch’s Public Art Advisory Group, Deputy Chair of the Antarctic Heritage Trust, President of the NZ Botanical Society and a trustee of several science, arts and cultural trusts. He has served four terms as Chair of Museums Aotearoa, New Zealand’s peak professional body for museums.

Prof Paul Spoonley FRSNZ – Fellow of Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum

Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley is one of New Zealand’s leading academics and a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. His work is concerned with race relations, political extremism, and Pākehā and ethnic identities. 

He joined Massey University in 1979 and was appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences in October 2013.

Prof Spoonley has led numerous research programmes, including the Ministry of Science and Innovation’s Integration of Immigrants and Nga Tangata Oho Mairangi. He has written or edited 25 books and is a regular commentator in the new media. 

He was awarded the Royal Society of New Zealand Science and Technology medal in 2009 in recognition of his scholarship, leadership and public contribution to cultural understanding. 

Prof Spoonley played a key role in establishing the MOU between Auckland Museum and Massey University which seeks to develop joint activities and share expertise. His ongoing work in the area of understanding the drivers and dynamics of social inclusion make him a valued partner for the Museum.