Sir Mason is one of New Zealand’s most highly respected academics. He has affiliations with the Rangitane, Ngāti Kauwhata and Ngāti Raukawa tribes of New Zealand. Durie grew up in Feilding and attended Te Aute College, Hawke's Bay. For over 40 years, he has been at the forefront of a transformational approach to Māori health and has played major roles in building the Māori health workforce.
Since 2012 the Royal Society of New Zealand has annually awarded the Mason Durie Medal Award for advances in the frontiers of social science.