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 (such as scientific concepts, political theory, and colonialism) in a way that engages the reader. My first children's book, 'Abigail and the birth of the Sun', was published by Penguin Random House in July 2019.
I am a qualified and dedicated historian with significant experience in the Treaty sector and freshwater policy development. I completed a PhD in History at Victoria University of Wellington in 2015. 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 / family history, and the history of right-wing movements and ideologies.
Published by Penguin Random House in July 2019
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.
“[A] story … that will not only explain the science of how the world began, but will deliver it with the poignancy and beauty of a fairy tale.”
Susannah Whaley, NZ Booklovers
“Abigail and the Birth of the Sun is a lovely book to read to a wondrous child, especially if they have big questions like Abigail. Likely to fan the fires of fascination, be prepared for many more questions you possibly won’t be able to answer!”
Ronnie Swainston, Kidspot
“I love that Abigail’s dad is not too busy or distracted to answer her question in depth – in an ideal world we’d all be this type of caring adult more often. It’s a little message tucked away in the text for the adults – ‘be like Abigail’s dad’. With a world of information quite literally available at our fingertips, our standard response shouldn’t be ‘I don’t know’, but ‘Let’s find out!’ And with the promise of further books explaining big concepts to come, Matthew Cunningham books may become just as easy to reach for as a Google search.”
Rachel Moore, The Sapling
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.
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.
I can prepare historical evidence regarding Māori customary title to river beds, in light of the decision of the Supreme Court in Paki v Attorney-General (No 2).
I can prepare histories of environmental taonga (in particular rivers), including historical and contemporary disputes concerning governance, use, and the Treaty.
Planning and consents
I can provide historical advice on resource consent applications and regional/district plan changes, including Treaty obligations, community concerns, and heritage matters.
I can prepare research for the Waitangi Tribunal, the Crown and Māori to assist with Tribunal inquiries, Treaty settlement negotiations, and Marine and Coastal Area applications.
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.
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.