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ABOUT ME

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I am an author and historian based in the Greater Wellington region of Aotearoa New Zealand.

I wrote my first ‘masterpiece’ in kindergarten. Unfortunately, I had yet to grasp the concept of writing in straight lines from left to right, so “The Clock” (a rather self-explanatory title) read more like a bowl of alphabet soup than a novel. Since that time, I’ve turned my hand to a number of different styles of fiction writing. My genres of choice are children's fiction and fantasy / sci-fi. Underlying all of my work is a desire to communicate, explore and test complex (and often uncomfortable) ideas in a way that engages the reader.

I am a qualified and dedicated historian with significant experience in the Treaty sector and freshwater policy development. My extensive publication history includes oral histories, peer-reviewed journal articles, commissioned research reports, and public history pieces. I have attended and presented at numerous historical conferences, and I have been consulted on for two television productions. My areas of specialty include Crown-Māori relations, environmental history, biography, and the history of right-wing movements and ideologies.

 
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FICTION

Abigail and the birth of the sun (cover)

Join Abigail on a magical night-time adventure to discover how the sun, moon and planets came into being.

 

Abigail is a curious little girl. She likes to discover the answers to really BIG questions. One night, she thinks of a question that’s SO BIG she can’t sleep until she knows the answer.

“Daddy,” she asks as he tucks her into bed, “where did the sun and all the planets come from?”

To find out the answer, Daddy invites Abigail on a magical journey through time and space. Together they explore the birth of all living things.

WINNER of NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, Best Picture Book Award 2020

SHORTLISTED for NZ Booklovers Award for Best Children’s Book 2020

Available through all major retailers in New Zealand and Australia

Abigail and the restless raindrop (cover

Come with Abigail and her mother on a magical adventure, soaring up into the clouds to discover where the raindrops come from.

 

Abigail is a curious little girl. She likes to discover the answers to really BIG questions.

One rainy morning, she thinks of a question that's SO BIG she can't concentrate on anything else until she knows the answer.

"Mummy," she asks, "how did the water get in the clouds?"

To discover the answer, Mummy invites Abigail on an exciting adventure with a tiny drop of lake water. Together they fly up into the sky to explore the marvellous movement of water around the Earth.

Available through all major retailers in New Zealand and Australia.

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Rosie is a little girl with big worries. Today is her sixth birthday, and she is having a party at the space museum with all her friends. She loves everything about space… but she cannot stop worrying about all of the things that might go wrong. What if nobody comes to her party? What if it’s too loud? What if it’s scary? Her ‘worry whisperer’ often twists her tummy into knots with questions like this.

This is the story of how Rosie begins her journey to accept and love her worry whisperer for what it is – a protector that sometimes does its job a little too well. Sometimes, Rosie discovers, she can be brave too.

Available online and through select retailers in Australia.

 

READINGS

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I am available to give readings at schools, daycares, libraries, and other public venues. The Abigail series of books began as bedtime stories for my daughter, and I love imparting that same sense of wonder to other tamariki.

I am enrolled in the New Zealand Writers in Schools programme. If your school is a current member of the New Zealand Book Council Te Kaunihera Pukapuka o Aotearoa, you can apply for a subsidised Writers in Schools visit. 

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NON-FICTION

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From Brexit to Bolsonaro and Tea Partiers to Trump, the resurgence of the radical right in the past few decades has seen many traditional centre-right parties co-opted or outmanoeuvred by more radical alternatives. It is now more important than ever to understand similar moments in Australian and New Zealand history.

This book concerns one such moment—the Great Depression—and the explosion of large, populist 'citizens' movements' that accompanied the crisis. These movements, which sprang into being virtually overnight and amassed a combined membership in the hundreds of thousands, staunchly opposed political parties of all shades. Instead, they proposed antidotes for their nations’ economic ill‑health that were often radical and occasionally anti-democratic.

 

At the height of their power, the citizens' movements threatened to disrupt or outright replace the centre right political parties of the time. At a time when fascism and right-wing authoritarianism were on the march internationally, the future shape of conservative politics was at stake.

Available online and in print on-demand.

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In the wake of the Christchurch terror attacks, the rise of COVID-19 conspiracy theories and the occupation of Parliament grounds, New Zealanders are faced with a confronting truth: we are not immune to the lure of the radical right and political extremism.


This book provides a fascinating account of New Zealand's radical right tradition from the late nineteenth century to the present. From Sinophobia to antisemitic conspiracy theories, white supremacy to anti-socialist hysteria, neo-nazis to apartheid apologists, anti-Treatyism to religious bigotry, skinheads to the alt-right: the radical right is a broad church with a long and varied history in Aotearoa.


Bringing together experts from multiple disciplines, this book sheds new light on the diverse mix of ideologues, organisations, social clubs, politicians, political factions and political parties on the right-ward fringe of our society. It also explores the conditions that encourage radicalisation and occasionally allow the radical right to 'jump the firebreak' into the mainstream, the role of international connections and influences, and what makes New Zealand's radical right unique.

Due for release in the second half of 2022.

 

HISTORICAL SERVICES

Kia mau koe ki ngā kupu o ōu tūpuna
Hold fast to the words of your ancestors

Here are just some of the many services that I can provide to you as a historian. If you would like to know more, or if you want to discuss how I can tailor my services to suit the needs of your organisation, company, or whānau/hapū/iwi, please give me a call or send me an email.

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Marine and Coastal Area applications

I can provide historical services for Māori customary marine title and/or protected customary rights applications, including literature reviews, scopings of extant material, detailed reports, and briefs of evidence for the High Court.

Treaty research

I can prepare and/or review research reports for the Waitangi Tribunal, Crown Forestry Rental Trust, Māori and the Crown to assist with Tribunal inquiries and Treaty settlement negotiations.

Planning and consents

I can provide historical advice on resource consent applications and regional/district plan changes, including Treaty rights and obligations, community concerns, and heritage matters.

Environmental taonga

I can prepare histories of environmental taonga (in particular rivers), including historical and contemporary disputes concerning governance, use, Treaty obligations, and Māori rights and interests (in particular customary title).

Biographies

I can work with your family to ghost-write biographies of your loved ones, to assist you to prepare one yourself, and to track down archival and genealogical records.

Organisations

I can prepare a history of your organisation or company to tell the story of where you have come from, record your successes and failures, and set a platform for your future.

 
 
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E | matthew@matthewcunningham.net

I am represented by Nadine Rubin Nathan from HighSpot Literary for my children's fiction.