Matewai Francess McCudden née Nepia

Ngāti Kahungunu, Te Whānau a Apanui, Tūhourangi, Te Arawa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa

1936 -

Matewai was born in Nuhaka and was educated at Whakarewarewa Native School, Nuhaka Native School (which later became Nuhaka Maaori School), and Wairoa District High School that later became Wairoa College. At Wairoa College, she became the first Māori girl to become Head Prefect. She went on to Wellington Teachers’ College; she was the only Māori on the Executive of the College and later became Vice Woman’s President of the College. Under the influence of her elders and her uncle, Dr Douglas Pohio Sinclair, she was directed and encouraged to work with children with special needs and disabilities. She received her Teachers’ Certificate and was awarded a Third Year Studentship in Speech Therapy. She continued her studies at Canterbury University and Christchurch Teachers’ College. She graduated as the first Māori Language Speech Therapist.

Matewai was one of the foundation members of the Crown Agency and the Special Education Service. She was responsible for developing and setting in place the Māori perspective of the Special Education Service. She practised, initially, as the only Maaori, in the National Office of the Special Education Service; she was initially a National Adviser of Policy Development and then became He Kairaranga. While practising in Senior Management and helping to formulate the strategic plans for making a difference for Māori children with special educational needs, she was offered the opportunity to return to university study and did so at Otago University. She has done papers towards a Certificate of Proficiency and has begun a Masters Degree in Education. She has had a “hands on component” of working with Kaiako in Koohanga throughout Aotearoa, and has endeavoured to help the Kaiako know the Early Learning Skills of Learning, using natural environmental materials as the tools of learning. MIHI is the name of this Rauemi. In November 1995, she concluded her work with the Special Education Service and began developing the module based on He Tamaiti Haua - Helping a Child with Disabilities. This module was to become the twelfth module of a parenting programme which is being developed for the Māori Women’s Welfare League and is called E Tipu e Rea. This programme is still in formulation.

Matewai has presented papers at conferences in universities in Australia and New Zealand including Deakin University in New South Wales, and at a medical conference in Alice Springs, mainly to Aborigine participants and to Māori presently resident in Northern Queensland. She has presented papers at conferences at Auckland University, Victoria University, Massey University and Otago University, and has also presented papers at Waikato Teachers’ College, Palmerston North Teachers’ College and Wellington Teachers’ College. Matewai has recently completed a two-year contract as the first (and possibly the only) Director of Māori Policy within the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society. There she assisted the Society in beginning its journey into bi-culturism; she also developed the Society’s policy for Māori—its first after ninety years of practice. Presently, she is working with Māori of MātāWaka within the Porirua area to help them to develop a proposal, a business plan, and strategic plans so as to access funding for the setting up of a health centre. She is also involved with plans to set up a Taurahere within this same area.

In 1998 Matewai helped to set up the National Smoking Cessation Service of Quitline and has continued as an advisor counsellor, putting in place Whakaaro o te Ngakau Māori which focuses on supporting callers who identify as Māori. From 1999-2001 she became the Taurahere Representative on the Establishment Board to establish the Kura Māori o Porirua. In 2000 she was involved in training for Professional Development Providers at Massey University and was part pf the presentation of Te Reo Tataki. Since 2002 she has been an adjudicator at Te Kareti o Te Aute Kapa Haka, and since 2003 has adjudicated Manu Kørero – Te Mātau ā Maui Regional Competitions. In October 2003 she made an oral submission to the select committee in parliament toward the bill for smokefree environments. She continues counselling and advising in Te Reo Tuturu with Me Mutu – Quitline.

Biographical sources

  • Phone interviews and correspondence from Matewai McCudden 1 Sept. 1992, 16 July 1998, and 1 July 2004.


  • Project MIHI (Multiple Intervention for Hearing Impaired) (Māori Intervention, Home-based Initiative). John Mohi, Matewai McCudden, & Ted Glynn. Monograph No. 12. Auckland, N.Z.: Te Tari Rangahau o Te Matauranga Māori: [Research Unit for Māori Education]. 1993.
  • The authors report on their research (Project MIHI) into the incidence of Glue Ear amongst the under five population of Māori children in the Tainui area. They discuss their research methodologies and provide strategies devised for Māori parents that effectively but unobtrusively, modify parental behaviour to accommodate the changes needed to offset the damage done to their children’s learning through their children having or having had bouts of Glue Ear.
  • "Plunket." Te Maori (Monthly News Magazine), 5.16 (Dec 1996) : 16.
  • Other

  • Rev. of Disability, Family, Whānau and Society, ed. Keith Ballard. Journal of New Zealand Educational Studies 30.2 1995. No further details.
  • "Te Whakapuaki o Te Reo." Porirua, N.Z., 1995.
  • An assessment Tool, written in te reo, to assist Hunga-Whakaako assess the effective development of language and sounds, within Kōhungahunga, in Kōhanga Reo. Matewai developed this tool at the request of KaiTakawaenga, practising in S.E.S. in Whanganui-a-Tara.
  • "Te Whakapapa o Te Whakaruruhau-The Ideology of Safety as found in Whakapapa." Conf. on Child and Family Policy. Otago University, Dunedin, N.Z. 12 July 1996.
  • Presented as a keynote address at the Inaugural Child and Family Policy Conference where the theme was "Investing in Children".
  • "Kia Pihi Mai Te Reo." Wānanga for Kōhanga Reo. The National Park Region, N.Z., March 1996.
  • "Getting to Know You." Natl. Conf. for the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society, Apr. 1997. No further details.
  • Papers/Presentations

  • "My Perspective on Early Childhood." College of Education, Wellington, N.Z. No further details.
  • "Inclusion A Vital And Integral Practice Of Māori." College of Education, Wellington, N.Z. No further details.
  • "The Music of Papa-tu-a-nuku and Ranginui-e-tu-iho-nei." Natl. Conf. for the New Zealand Registered Music Teachers. Victoria University, Wellington, N.Z. No further details.
  • "Te Ha o Kui ma, o Koro ma." Natl. Conf. for the Society of Music Therapy. Van Asch College, Christchurch, N.Z. 5 Sept. 1992.
  • The theme of the Conference was ‘Habilitation and Rehabilitation’ and Music as a Therapy Tool.
  • "Te Unga." Presentation to Kaupapa Māori Teachers. Waikato, N.Z. 1994
  • An assessment tool (written in te reo) that has been adapted, designed and developed to assess the language processes, used by tamariki Māori, whose instruction is in te reo. Tool developed at request of Kaupapa Māori Teachers, to help them identify the processes of language that their children were using in class.