Puawai Cairns

Pre-empting the playbook: passing on lessons learnt

Puawai Cairns is from Tauranga Moana (Ngāti Pūkenga, Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui), and works as the Director of Audience and Insight at Te Papa Tongarewa, where she oversees the audience-facing work of the national museum. Puawai has a curatorial and research background and previously was the Head of Mātauranga Māori for Te Papa, where she specialised in contemporary social history research and collecting to reflect the stories of Māori communities.

She co-wrote a book on the material culture of protest called “Protest Tautohetohe: Objects of resistance, persistence and defiance” (2019 Ockham book award for Best Illustrated Non-fiction), and serves on numerous boards across Aotearoa. She advises nationally and internationally on museum practices, advocating for greater indigenous participation and leadership in the heritage sector.