Debbie Tepora Panuku Kupenga

Ngāti Porou, Waikato

1947 -

Debbie Kupenga was born at Waipiro Bay and educated at Hiruharama Primary School and at Ngata Memorial College. She writes educational material, fiction, non-fiction, children’s educational reading material, women’s educational material, historical, haka taparahi, and film reviews both in English and Māori. She teaches at Waikato University. She has composed Māori songs in moteatea form and to classical music. She composed a moteatea performed with a poi for Manutahi Primary School in 1987. She composed a Māori opera song for the Taradale Primary School in Hawkes Bay to be performed at a festival in the early 1980s. She did the research on the consumption of and the effects of alcohol among Māori aged between 15-45 years in a suburb of Auckland with a high population of Māori. "Along with others we reported the findings in a special publication for the Medical School of the University of Auckland. The effect of that report was that a Māori person was employed to work on the Alcohol Advisory Council of the Medical School of Auckland University, educational advertisements were promoted on television, road blitz were heightened by the traffic department etc.... Further I wrote some articles for a Māori women’s magazine that used to be published quarterly in the early to mid 1980s by the Māori Women’s Movement, of Otara... In the early to mid 1980s I was very active in Māori people’s health and social issues and presented many papers on various issues to do with health, alternative spirituality; and physical healing and such. I alerted Robert Pouwhare as to the various health problems that Māori people had the highest rate of and he produced a number of educational television programmes to promote the nation’s awareness of such. I have written papers on various issues from health to politics, to history, to education, to Māori ideology and philosophy and [have] given public forums for specific hui, at marae, at Auckland University and to Secondary School Māori teachers - [these papers were not published]". She has also written under a pseudonym at times. "More recently I collated most of the music, karakia and karanga for Witi Ihimaera’s play ‘The Two Taniwha’ which we performed at Ruatoria and Gisborne on the 2nd and 5th of January 1993. I have written books for both Kohanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa Māori. These are as yet unpublished because I have not found a publisher who would allow me to illustrate my work, or allow me to publish my work without an English translation."

Biographical sources

  • Correspondence and phone conversation with Debbie Kupenga on 17 Feb. 1993 and Sept. 1998.

    Children's literature

  • Nga Kai-tiaki o Aotearoa. Otara, N.Z.: Waitangi Action Committee, 1981.
  • Non-fiction

  • "Ko Hiruharama Toku Pa." Te Ao Hou 47 (1964): 19-20.
  • "Farewell to a Black Sister." Broadsheet 103 (1982): 22-23. Rpt. as "A Farewell Tribute to a Black Sister." Te Pua 2.1 & 2 (1993): 17-23.
  • Kupenga writes that this article was written ‘to promote awareness in my fellow Māori women of the fact that we have the highest mortality rates due to cervical cancer in Aotearoa, if not the world.’ She adds that this is based on a true story of a cousin who died of cervical cancer in 1973. She recounts the process of the tangi for her cousin with the various speeches in Māori with English translations and her own farewell speech to her cousin.
  • "Aotearoa." Profit at Gunpoint: Militarisation and Economic Domination, A Christian Response, Fourth Asia Youth Resource Conference, Mindanao, Phillipines, May 15-30, 1983. Singapore: Christian Conference of Asia Youth, March 1984. 163-174.
  • "Interviews with Young, Urban Māoris." Alcohol and the Māori People. By Donna Awatere, Sally Casswell, Helen Cullen, Lynnette Gilmore and Debbie Kupenga. Auckland, N.Z.: Alcohol Research Unit, School of Medicine, U of Auckland, N.Z., February, 1984. 34-83.
  • This working paper in three sections seeks to provide a composite picture of research on Māori people’s use of alcohol and related attitudes. In the first section Helen Cullen presents a history of the alcohol use of the Māori and the legislation introduced to control liquor use and sales. In the second section Casswell, Cullen and Gilmore give a review of Māori and non-Māori alcohol-related statistics. The third section compiled by Debbie Kupenga is devoted to verbatim reports of young Māori and their response to alcohol. Kupenga interviewed 67 individuals and eleven groups within the age range of 14-25 years living in Otara. Her aim was ‘to collect information about drinking alcohol and attitudes towards its use among selected Māoris’.
  • "‘Mauri’ dir, Merata Mita: na nga iwi o Waikato o whanau-a-Apanui me etahi atu." Broadsheet 172 (1989): 28-30.
  • In this text written in Māori and English, Kupenga discusses Māori responses to the film Mauri which was written and directed by Merata Mita. Kupenga notes the ambivalence amongst Māori audiences as to whether the film should be shown to Pakeha audiences or reserved for Māori viewing only.
  • "Assess the Strengths and Examine the Weaknesses of a Religious-Political Movement of the Later 19th and Earlier 20th Century: Te Kooti Rikirangi Te Turuki - Ringatu." Annual Journal of the University of Auckland, N.Z. Historical Society. Ed. Peter Lucas and Judith Binney. Auckland, N.Z.: Historical Society, U of Auckland History Department, 1982. 38-44. An extract of this article entitled "From Do No Trust the Pakeha" is rpt in Te Ao Mārama: Regaining Aotearoa: Māori Writers Speak Out. Comp. and ed. Witi Ihimaera. Contributing ed. Haare Williams, Irihapeti Ramsden and D. S. Long. Vol. 2: He Whakaatanga O Te Ao: The Reality. Auckland, N.Z.: Reed, 1993. 37-39.
  • A biographical account of Te Kooti.
  • Papers/Presentations

  • "Te Hanganga o te Tangata." "A Muri I Te Tau 1990- Kaahu Pehea Tatau?" Te Ripoata Me Nga Pepa O Te Hui-A-Tau A Te Matawhanui. Ngāti Moki Marae Tuamutu, Te Waihora Te Wai Pounamu. 1-3 Pepuere/Hue Tanguru, 1991./ "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. Ed. K. L. Garden, J. N. Mare-Wheoki & R. Parker. Nga Pu Kōrero: Te Whare Wananga o Waitaha/University of Canterbury/ Te Whare Wanaka o Aoraki/Lincoln University, Hanuere/Kohi-Tatea, 1992. 39-43.
  • This article concludes with a short section in English in which Kupenga discusses ‘Women as Repositories of Knowledge’ and ‘Kura Kaupapa Māori’.
  • Traditional

  • "Te Tiriti O Waitangi." Women’s Haka performed at Waitangi 6 February 1981.