Michelle was born in Wellington, grew up in Whangarei and attended Whau Valley Primary, Raurimu Primary, Whangarei Intermediate and Tikipunga High School in Whangarei. She moved to Wellington in 1984 and continued her studies at Victoria University graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Women’s Studies, and Masters in Social Science Research. She moved to the United States and in 1995 worked at the New Zealand Embassy in Washington, D.C. She enrolled in Ph.D studies at the University of California in Santa Cruz and completed a Ph.D in History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2007. Her dissertation was ‘In the Shadow of Manaia: Colonial Narratives of Violence Against Māori Women, 1820-1870.’ Michelle has subsequently taken up a poition of visiting assistant professor with Feminist Studies at the Universiy of Santa Cruz, California.
Michelle writes: “Since 1989 I've also been involved in contemporary anti-violence work, mostly concerned with wanting to end rape and domestic violence against Māori women and children. My links to Māori, particularly Ngapuhi, are through my father's parents, Te Huia Heta and Hira Erai, and my research and anti-violence work within various communities.” In 1999 she was appointed Commissioner for the Santa Cruz Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women and in 2001 was appointed co-chair of Incite! Women of Color Against Violence.
She has received various awards and scholarships including the Family Violence Prevention Coordinating Committee Study Award, 1989, a Ministry of Education Pokicy Division Scholarship from 1992-3, a Kippenberger Memorial Fellowship in 1994, a Cota Robles Fellowship from 2001-2. From 2003-4 whe was a recipient of the UCSC Pacific Rim Research Fun and in 2006 received a Nga Pae o te Maramatanga Ph.D Dissertation Fellowship.
Michelle has been involved in many research projects since the late 1980s and has co-organized various conferences in the United States including: “The Color of Violence: Violence Against Women of Color (COV)”, in Santa Cruz, March 2000; “Incite! Activist Institute”, at the Ulupono Conference, Waikiki, Hawaii in Sept. 2000; “Incite! Activist Institute”, in New Orlean in Feb. 2001; “Decolonizing Methodology and Beyond: Constructin Indigenous Methodologies”, in Feb. 2001 at the University of California in Santa Cruz; “Incite! Activist Institute:, in August 2002 in Portland, Oregon; and “A Translocal Forum on Feminisms and the Global War on Terror”, at the Institute for Advanced Feminist Research at the University of California, Santa Cruz in May 2003
- Email correspondence with Michelle Erai on 4 Jan. 2008.
- http://www.victoria.ac.nz/throughoureyes/michelle.html 19 Dec. 2007.
- rspas.anu.edu.au/asiapacificweek/2005/documents/pacific_titles_abstracts.pdf – 19 Dec. 2007.
- "Māori Women: An Annotated Bibliography and Computerised Database." Women’s Studies Journal 6.1/2 (1990): 1-16. Rpt. in ‘Beyond 1990 - where do we go from here?’: Proceedings of the Third Annual Conference of the Māori University Teachers Association, Taumutu Marae, Ellesmere, Canterbury, 1-3 February 1991/’A muri i te tau 1990- ka ahu pehea tatau?’: Te Ripoata me Nga Pepa o Te Hui-a-Tau a Te Matawhanui. Ngāti Moki Marae Taumutu, Te Waihora Te Wai Pounamu. 1-3 Pepuere/Hue Tanguru, 1991. Ed. K. L. Garden, J. N. Mane-Wheoki, R. Parker. [Christchurch, N.Z.,]: Nga Pu Kōrero, U of Canterbury/Lincoln U, January 1992. 21-29.
- Co-authors Michelle Erai, Everdina Fuli, Kathie Irwin, Lenaire Wilcox.
A discussion of the vision and mechanics of compiling this bibliography which articulates the organisation of the bibliography, the research process and autobiographical statements by the four researchers.
- "Wahine Taharua: Māori Lesbians in Wellington in the 1960’s." Women Tegether A History of Women’s Organisations in New Zealand. Wellington: Historical Branch of the Department of Internal Affairs, 1993. 38-40.
- "Exile, Māori and Lesbian." Queer in Aotearoa New Zealand. Ed. Lynne Alice and Lynne Star. Palmerston North, N.Z.: Dunmore Press, 2004. 35-46.
- Exile, Maori and lesbian. Ed. Lynne Alice and Lynne Star. Palmerston North, N.Z.: Dunmore Press (2004): 35-46.
- Co-authors Lynne Alice and Lynne Star.
- "Reflections on my path to academia." MAI review (Online) n.3 (2008): 2.
- "A queer caste: mixing race and sexuality in colonial New Zealand." Tucson University of Arizona Press, 2011.
- Co-author Driskill Qwo-Li.
- Māori Women: An Annotated Bibliography. [Wellington, N.Z.]: Michelle Erai, Everdina Fuli, Kathie Irwin and Lenaire Wilcox in association with Learning Media, 1991.
- Co-authors Michelle Erai, Everdina Fuli, Kathie Irwin and Lenaire Wilcox. This annotated bibliography contains references "written by Māori women or about Māori women". One of the purposes of the bibliography is to "provide a resource which will give people interested in Māori women access to relevant research and publications". The authors provide a history of the bibliographic project in the Introduction. Phase One of the project was to publish the bibliography in booklet form; Phase Two is the creation of a permanent database on Māori women which will be continually updated and located at Victoria University’s Education Department. The third section of the project is to pursue whanau-hapu-iwi based research on Māori women’s oral histories. The bibliography is arranged by authors’ or subjects’ names listed alphabetically and their respective publications listed chronologically. There is a subject index.
- "Māori Soldiers: Māori Experiences of the New Zealand Army." MA Thesis, Vicotira University, 1994.
- "In the Shadow of Manaia: Colonial Narratives of Violence Against Māori Women, 1820-1870." PhD. Univ. of California, 2007.
- "Maori Women: An Annotate Bibliography." Women’s Studies Journal 6 (Nov. 1990)" 1-16.