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Stout Research Centre appoints 2024 JD Stout Fellow and awards Lydia Wevers Scholarship in NZ Studies

Rebecca Macfie has been appointed as the 2024 JD Stout Fellow by The Stout Research Centre for New Zealand Studies at Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington, and postgraduate researcher Nikki Wright has been awarded the inaugural Lydia Wevers Scholarship in New Zealand Studies.

During her time as the JD Stout Fellow Rebecca’s research will focus on the capacity of grassroots and community organisations to disrupt the harms of poverty.

“A growing body of scientific research points to the life-long harm caused by childhood deprivation,” Rebecca says.

“Increasingly, evidence shows the need for locally led, place-based initiatives which can enable families suffering from persistent disadvantage to build on their strengths and thrive.”

Rebecca is a critically acclaimed journalist and author, and the recipient of more than 20 awards including the prestigious Wolfson Press Fellowship. She is the author of the multi-award-winning book Tragedy at Pike River Mine: How and why 29 men died, and Helen Kelly: Her Life, a biography of the former trade union leader (both books published by Awa Press). She has written and worked for a number of New Zealand newspapers, magazines and online news sites since 1988.

Her research will significantly expand on an existing body of work published in The Listener last year, which shone a light on the innovation and determination within local communities striving to dismantle systemic barriers to the wellbeing of their tamariki.

Rebecca will spend her year with the Stout Centre bringing these pieces of research together by telling the stories of local community activism and the commitment to a decent future for children and families.

“Rebecca’s exploration of child poverty will build on the impactful work featured in The Listener last year, while her presence promises to inspire all of us at the Centre,” says Professor Brigitte Bönisch-Brednich, director of the Stout Research Centre for New Zealand Studies.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Stout Trust for supporting cutting-edge, top-class research from public scholars in our country.”

The JD Stout Fellowship is funded from the legacy of John David Stout and stewarded by Perpetual Guardian.

Perpetual Guardian’s Head of Philanthropy Kirsten Kilian-Taylor says they are proud to manage the Stout legacy in support of the JD Stout Fellowship at Victoria University.

“Perpetual Guardian stewards up to $22 million to social services annually on behalf of its generous donors, and many grants are designed to address the drivers of persistent disadvantage in New Zealand.

We recognise that the capacity of grassroots and community organisations to both deliver their programmes of choice and disrupt the harm caused by poverty is a challenging dynamic, so we very much look forward to the outcomes of Rebecca’s research.”

This support from the Stout Trust includes funding for a scholarship launched in 2022 in honour of the late Dr Lydia Wevers, one of Aotearoa’s pre-eminent public intellectuals and former director of the Stout Research Centre.

As the inaugural scholarship recipient, Nikki Wright intends to encompass a practice-based arts approach to her Master’s research project, which will examine our urban coexistences with life-giving insect pollinators, including Aotearoa’s native bees, butterflies, moths, and flies.

The main focus of her research involves storytelling through blogs, interviews, photography, and drawing in addition to piloting community-led plantings of native ‘pollinator pathways’ on berms and public green spaces.

“The work asks what happens when we slow down, as we did during the COVID-19 lockdowns, and begin to notice and engage with our insect neighbours in ways that are different to those we are used to,” says Nikki.

Nikki credits Lydia’s family and the Stout Trust for enabling her to pursue an exciting cross-disciplinary arts and science Master’s research project.

“I am hugely grateful to Lydia’s family, friends, colleagues, and the Stout Trust. After working as a journalist in conservation for many years, I’m so excited they’ve made it possible for me to take my learning to a higher level and continue to develop and adapt arts-science approaches for important environmental work.”

Professor Brigitte Bönisch-Brednich says it is with great joy that they announce the inaugural recipient of the Lydia Wevers Scholarship in New Zealand Studies.

“Nikki’s project has everything that Lydia Wevers would have found inspiring; the project has great potential, and we are looking forward to hearing more from Nikki as her thesis develops.”

 

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