John Clarke was educated at Auckland and Victoria Universities and graduated with a BA in 1976. In 1976 he worked on establishing the first intensive Māori language course on a national level. In 1984 he received a Victoria University Study Award and Sir Woolf Fisher Scholarship and travelled overseas to the United States, Europe and Britain studying bilingual education programmes for ethnic minorities. He has worked as a teacher and was principal of Ngata College in Ruatoria and Wellington High School and Community Institute. He subsequently tutored Māori language at Victoria University. From 1989-1991 Clarke was chief executive of the Manatu Māori government department and was Race Relations Conciliator (1992-95) and a Human Rights Commissioner from In 1995 Clarke was appointed to the Waitangi Tribunal. He has been a trustee of Naenae Intermediate and Naenae College Trust Boards, and is currently a trustee of Tokararangi Forest.
- "Māori Takes on Race Relations Job." The Press 23 October 1992: 3.
- "Tensions Trigger False Alarm." Evening Post 27 June 1995: 7.
- "Solving NZ’s Racial Problems." The Press Wed 28 June 1995: 11.
- "Race Relations: much Progress, More to do." New Zealand Herald 24 Nov. 1995: 7.
- "Turbulent Year of Race Relations in NZ." Otago Daily Times 2 Dec. 1995: 8