Champion of Maori culture honoured

16:00, Jan 08 2014
Judy Cooper
HONOURED: Reverend Judy Cooper, 81, is among the West Auckland residents recognised in the 2014 New Year Honours.

The Rev Judy Cooper holds Maori culture and language close to her heart.

The 81-year-old has dedicated almost a lifetime preserving and spreading traditional values and customs.

She was recognised for her work in the 2014 New Year honours and admits it's still sinking in that she's been awarded the Queen's Service Medal for services to Maori arts and the community.

The mother of six says it's vital for Maori to carry on their language.

"It's important for our children who are brought up in the western world to know about their culture."

The Glen Eden resident was a foundation member of Te Kohanga Reo at Hoani Waititi Marae during the early 1980s.


She's travelled to American Samoa and Australia teaching the culture and language and has shared advice on Maori protocols to various groups and communities including Henderson police officers.

Growing up, Ms Cooper was orphaned out to extended family members after her mother's death and being submerged in families where Maori tongue over rode English is what sparked her love for the language.

"It shaped me and gave me an understanding of the language," she says.

Ms Cooper attended a native primary school in the Bay of Islands and received a government scholarship to study at St Joseph's Maori Girls' College in Napier.

After completing school she joined the Royal New Zealand Women's Auxiliary Air Force for three years.

She moved to West Auckland in 1980.

For 12 years Ms Cooper was a member of Te Taumata Runanga, the Maori standing committee of the former Waitakere City Council and is now a member of Hoani Waititi Marae trust board. She has been involved in teaching traditional Maori weaving to younger generations and is a member of Pacifica Mamas, a group of matriarchs from around the Pacific who exchange knowledge on traditional crafts.

Ms Cooper has represented Maori arts and culture in projects including the Pacifica Living Arts Festival, Project Twin Stream, Kids Art Festival and Pacifica HeARTbeat.

She says the Maori language has become stronger over the years and urges rangatahi or youth to keep it alive. "We need to progress and our rangatahi need to continue speaking the language."

More honours recipients P4

Western Leader