‘The role for migrant nurses in NZNO’ – Presentation to NZNO Migrant & Internationally Qualified Health Workers Conference

(Following some unscripted remarks on the events in Christchurch the previous day, these were the speaking notes for my presentation.)

Photo courtesy of Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand.

Āta mārie, tēnei te mihi ki a koutou. 

Good morning, greetings to you. 

Ko wai ahau? Ko Kapukataumahaka tōku maunga, ko Ōwheo tōku awa, ko Cornwall tōku waka. 

Ko te Tāngata Tiriti tōku iwi, ko Don rāua ko Helen ōku mātua. Ko Grant Brookes ahau. Nō reira, tēnā koutou katoa. 

Who am I? The place I come from looks up at a mountain called Kapukataumahaka, or Mount Cargill, and sits beside a river called Ōwheo, the Water of Leith. My ancestors arrived there, in Dunedin, aboard a waka, or ship called The Cornwall. I belong to the People of the Treaty, the people who reside here under the agreement first signed at Waitangi in 1840. My parents are Don and Helen, and I am Grant Brookes. 

The topic I have been given to speak about is, “Where to from here? Into the future, the path forward, what is the role for migrant nurses in NZNO?”. 

Let’s begin with definitions. What is this group, the migrant nurses in NZNO? Who are they? 

The answer may surprise you. We don’t entirely know. 

The NZNO membership database contains a field recording a member’s “country of first qualification”. In theory, therefore, the migrant nurses in NZNO should be clearly identifiable. They would be the members who ticked a box other than “New Zealand” in their membership application, in response to this question. 

However, in speaking with the NZNO Membership Department in preparation for this talk, I learnt that it’s not so simple. 

Firstly, this field was added to the database only around four years ago. For members who joined prior to that, there is no record of where they first qualified. And I was told that anecdotally, the data is not reliable, as many members who have joined since 2015 left this field blank on their membership form, or filled it out incorrectly. 

But when we speak of migrant nurses (and of internationally qualified health workers who may not be working as nurses, the other group covered by this conference), what we’re often thinking of are people who share particular cultural backgrounds – backgrounds other than New Zealand European or New Zealand Māori. Research suggests that the experiences of NZNO members in these minority groups (including experiences of racism) are similar, regardless of whether the person first qualified as a nurse in New Zealand or overseas.

In other words, what we’re talking about is ethnicity. And with your permission, I would like to focus on this concept, which thankfully is captured by NZNO in a time-series data set which is more robust. 

Do you like data? I do, as you may have guessed. So if you’re not a fan, please indulge me for a couple of minutes as I present some charts showing the changing ethnic makeup of our membership over the last ten years.

Just one final word about data quality – up until 2015, ethnicity categories in the NZNO membership database were less specific. So, for example, members belonging to one of the many Asian ethnic groups were described as either Chinese, Indian or “Other Asian”. The NZNO Board requested refinements to the reporting categories in 2016, to make the growing diversity of our membership more visible. You will see this in the later charts. Ethnicity data captured in the NZNO database is now aligned with the fields recorded by the Nursing Council, although it’s still not perfect and anecdotal reports suggest a member’s ethnicity sometimes defaults incorrectly to NZ European.

So based on what we have, this was the picture at 31 December 2008.

Our membership was largely made up of people identifying as New Zealand European, with a significant Māori group. There was also a visible group of “Other Europeans”, reflecting the traditional trickle of migrant nurses from places like the UK and Australia. 

Click to play the video below and watch how it changes, year by year. 

In 2010, the “Other Asian” group started to overtake “Other European”, as the primary source countries for IQNs started to change. The trend then accelerated. 

And this is where we are now. 

If current trends continue, New Zealand Europeans like me will be a minority of NZNO members by 2025. 

It is worth mentioning in passing that there hasn’t been any similar transformation of the NZNO staff. There are almost 130 people employed by NZNO, in a variety of roles. But aside from our Chief Executive, there are still no IQNs of non-European ethnicity among them. 

So that’s the picture from the last ten years. But if you go back further, the demographic transformation of the NZNO membership appears starker still. I became a member of NZNO in 2002. Back then, the organisation looked like this. 

As you can see, the NZNO which I joined was largely monocultural, at least as far as our membership base was concerned. 

You might also note that the opening up of this monoculturalism has come through the declining proportion of members identifying as New Zealand European. Māori membership has not declined. The proportion of members who are tāngata whenua, or people of the land, and the proportion who are tauiwi, or more recent arrivals residing here by virtue of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, is virtually unchanged through this period. 

The relationship between these two groups underpins the bicultural foundation of our organisation – in accordance with the bicultural foundation of our nursing profession, and indeed of our nation. Kerri Nuku will speak more about this next. 

If this is the story so far, what is the role for IQNs and migrant health workers in NZNO, into the future? 

Let me first flip that question. What is my role, as Co-chair of the NZNO Board, for IQNs and migrant health workers in NZNO? 

I know that as a New Zealand European, citizen and NZRN, I automatically benefit from a system of privilege, whether I like it or not. My role for IQNs and migrant health workers in NZNO is to use that privilege to make space at the top table for people without it, like you. 

Your role is quite simply to take your place in the leadership of NZNO – as increasing numbers of you are already doing. 

I would like to briefly showcase just a few of the leading roles being filled by migrant nurses today. Some of these people, you will probably recognise. 

Victoria Santos is an IQN from the Philippines. She also holds a senior leadership position in the governance of NZNO. Victoria sits on the Membership Committee, the national body which advises the NZNO Board of Directors on the views and needs of the diverse membership. The Membership Committee also helps to carry out delegated work such as drafting the constitutional changes which will this year see voting on NZNO policies and rules opened up to everyone, though an online “one member, one vote” system

Jed Montayre is also from the Philippines. Within NZNO, Jed is an elected member of the National Committees of Gerontology Section and also the Nursing Research Section. He has served on the abstracts committee which selected the papers for presentation at the NZNO Annual Conference. Here, he is pictured receiving the award as joint winner of the NZNO Young Nurse of the Year in 2016. 

One of the three abstracts chosen for last year’s NZNO Annual Conference was on “The Experience of Migrant Health Workers in New Zealand”. It was jointly presented by three Filipinos – Joey Domdom, Judith Salamat and Mayie Pagalilauan – in conjunction with Toga Katyamaenza, an IQN from Zimbabwe. Here they are pictured with IQN and former NZNO Board member Monina Hernandez, who will speak to us later this morning. 

Shamim Chagani is an IQN from Pakistan, and an elected member of the National Committee for NZNO Nurse Managers New Zealand. She is also the editor of the Nurse Managers’ newsletter, Te Wheke, a Māori title which means, “The Octopus”. 

But IQNs are not just demonstrating professional leadership within NZNO. 

This poster features Ebson Abraham, an IQN from India. The poster was produced by the NZNO Tai Tokerau Regional Council for International Nurses Day last year, to celebrate local NZNO leadership in Northland. The writing is probably too small for you to read, but it says Ebson was a workplace delegate at Cairnfield House Rest Home in Whangarei, where “he took responsibility for NZNO services, promoting the union movement from scratch and then constructed a movement that is measurable by the increase of NZNO membership density up to 80% that eventually built a strong force for change. This wave became a pillar… for NZNO bargaining in 2016/17 with an effective settlement of a collective agreement in 2017”. 

As an aside, there is a widespread assumption among New Zealanders that union membership and activism are somehow foreign to the cultural values in the primary source countries for IQNs today.

The diversity clearly displayed on marches and rallies by DHB nurses last year should help to dispel that stereotype. But so would greater knowledge of overseas nursing unions, which are growing under very difficult conditions and waging struggles on a scale and intensity which make our DHB strike look timid. 

A case in point is the United Nurses Association of India. It was formed in the southern state of Kerala in 2011, in response to the suicide of a nurse who had been bullied by her managers. It now numbers over half a million members. Months of protests and strikes in 2017 and 2018 won agreements on pay rises for around 80,000 nurses in private hospitals. At one hospital in Kerala, nurses remained on strike and picketed outside the facility daily, for over a year

The spectacular rise of the United Nurses Association is an amazing story. I hope to meet leaders of that union for the first time in July at the annual meeting of our international union federation, Global Nurses United. But it’s by no means an isolated case. Nurses in the Philippines have been organising for decades – again under very difficult conditions – through unions including the Alliance of Health Workers and more recently through Filipino Nurses United. Last year, Kerri Nuku and I attended 61st annual general meeting of the Fijian Nursing Association. FNA has been active as a Pacific nursing union since 1977, including campaigning for workers’ rights under military rule, and so on. 

Returning to the slides, the last two IQN leaders in NZNO I wish to showcase highlight the need to avoid assumptions when it comes to migrant nurses. 

Current Board member Eseta Finau occupies the highest leadership role in NZNO of any IQN. She will talk to us shortly about that role. Despite also being the most Tongan person I know, however, she actually qualified as a nurse in Australia. Gidday cobber! 

And then there are NZNO leaders who you might not pick as IQNs from their appearance.

Debbie O’Donoghue is a former NZNO Board member who now serves on the national committee of NZNO Nurse Managers New Zealand. She is also an IQN, from the UK. 

But leadership for IQNs within NZNO does not depend on holding a title, like these people. The NZNO Strategy for Nursing 2018-2023 recognises that, “Many nurses demonstrate excellent… leadership, though they may not recognise this, associating leadership only with formal roles.”

In many ways, leadership exercised by people without a formal title is the most important kind. As Bernie Sanders likes to say, “Real change does not happen from the top down. It happens from the bottom up.”

One of the ways that any member can influence NZNO’s direction from the bottom up is by responding to consultation requests. This is where staff from the NZNO policy and research team seek member input, in order to determine NZNO’s position on a wide range of issues. They do this by emailing all member groups, including Regional Councils, to ask for feedback. 

They also post the requests on the NZNO website, under the menu “Get Involved > Consultation”. If migrant nurses are not getting the consultation requests by email, from a member group, you can sign up on the website to be notified each time a new one comes out. 

Here is a recent request, asking for input to shape NZNO’s view about the changes to temporary work visas for migrants currently being proposed by the government. Unfortunately, the deadline has passed for people to respond to this request, although if anyone is interested in making an individual submission to the government, you can do it via the MBIE website until Monday, at the address on screen. 

So these are some of the ways that migrant nurses can take up your role as leaders of NZNO and use your power to make a difference.

But as the title of Monina Hernandez’s presentation on today’s programme reminds us, the role for migrant nurses in NZNO is not just about “making a difference”. It’s also about “being yourself”. I will end on this point. 

Coming up before morning tea is Abel Smith’s presentation, “An introduction to the Pacific Nursing Section”. The PNS is one of NZNO’s 20 colleges and sections. I am really looking forward to it because for me, this group epitomises what it means for ethnic minority members to be themselves while also making a difference. 

NZNO sections and colleges are groups of members with a focus on a specific field of nursing. The colleges are groups relating to a specific clinical specialty, while the sections are groups representing a role or membership classification, such as those sharing a specific culture or cultures. Formed in 2008, the Pacific Nursing Section was the last NZNO section to be established before a moratorium was placed on the formation of new sections in 2011. 

The NZNO Constitution was amended last year, through a remit submitted to the NZNO AGM by the Greater Auckland Regional Council, to lift the moratorium and allow the creation of new colleges and sections. 

The rationale provided in support of the remit noted that: “NZNO structures need to be flexible enough to respond to the changing reality”. And we’ve seen in the pie charts the changing reality of NZNO membership. The remit rationale added: “Various membership and role classification groups exist without a corresponding NZNO structure to date. Examples include… internationally qualified nurses”. 

I will now hand over to Kerri Nuku. Because we will be back as part of the discussion panel after lunch, and because I have used up all of my available time, I would ask that you save any questions until then. 

Thank you. 

The President comments: ‘A new strategic direction for NZNO?’

Titiro ki muri kia whakatika ā mua. Look to the past to proceed with the future.

I CAME across this proverb last month at Te Matatini, the national kapa haka championships in Wellington. It summed up for me our task as we prepare to update and replace NZNO’s five-year strategic plan, which expires next year. The process approved by the board will involve input from external stakeholders, NZNO staff and members.

Looking back, and thinking about the future, gives us all a chance to re-focus on the big questions for NZNO. Who are we here for? What are we hoping to achieve? How will we get there? What’s going on in our environment – political, economic, social/cultural, technological, legal and environmental – that we will need to respond to?

Much has changed since delegates at the 2015 NZNO annual general meeting voted to approve the current strategic plan. Back then, as chief executive Memo Musa reminded us, union membership was declining. Law changes had made it harder for unions to operate, and union influence was dwindling. An NZNO strategy stressing nursing professionalism fitted with the times.

Fast forward to 2019 – anti-union laws have been reversed, and the trend of declining union membership has also turned around. Union engagement with employers and government is stronger. Health funding is no longer falling. There’s also much to learn from last year’s unprecedented DHB MECA campaign.

The board has also agreed in principle on a review of our operational structures, to make sure they’re suitable for implementing the new strategy. And while no decision has been made, we have discussed whether the NZNO constitution – which spells out who has the power to do what in NZNO, and members’ rights and responsibilities – might need to be reviewed, as well.

Who are we here for?

In my view, the answer to the first big question, “Who are we here for?”, is that NZNO is here, above all, for the members, and we must keep members at the centre of our planning. If we focus on supporting and empowering members, then our strategic goals and the ways to achieve them will become clear.

Members see the impacts of health and social policies, and belong to communities who experience impacts, too. Supporting members means our strategic goals should include political changes.

All of us are unionised workers and health professionals. Focusing on members solves the conundrum of whether to stress “industrial or professional” strategies. At all times, we are both.

And nurses and midwives are required to practise in a culturally safe manner, under the Treaty of Waitangi/Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Supporting members means strengthening biculturalism.

Such a member-centric strategic plan might suit an NZNO structure where more authority and resources are devolved to our volunteer member-leaders.

It could drive full implementation of NZNO’s organising model, an approach which empowers members in the workplace to act as a team in their own interest, rather than just looking to an NZNO staff member to “fix” things for them. •

First published in Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand, March 2019

The President comments: ‘Here Comes The Sun’

HERE COMES The Sun – the classic Beatles track off the 1969 Abbey Road album – was one of the first songs that our son, aged two and a half, learned to sing. Memories of walking to feed the ducks in the summer of 2007/8, accompanied by strains of, “Sun, sun, sun, here it comes!” still warm my heart.

This George Harrison composition could have been a glib, throwaway ditty. I think its longevity and power stem partly from its invocation of a “long, cold, lonely winter” which has lasted for what “feels like years”.

Shortly after its release at the end of the 1960s – that decade of struggle – brilliant cover versions appeared, by feminist civil-rights singer Nina Simone and rebel reggae artist Peter Tosh.

Ice is melting

They enriched the meaning of lines like, “I feel that ice is slowly melting”. Patterns of injustice long frozen were starting to shift.

And so, as summer 2018/19 arrives in Aotearoa, there are signs the long, cold winter – for nursing and for the people we care for – is also coming to an end. The ice has been cracked by passion, courage and the collective action of NZNO members.

Nine years of underfunding ended in May with this year’s Budget. It was our campaigning, together with others, which made health the number one issue for voters and a top priority for the incoming government.

Our escalating protests and strikes this year were unprecedented. Our demand to bring back the warmth into health has been game-changing.

We didn’t win everything we need to rebuild our health system, but I can see rays of sunlight. Over the last couple of months, I’ve helped assess and approve each DHB’s plans for their share of the 500 new nursing positions created by our campaign. And I’ve felt the warmth returning to our profession.

Meanwhile, the health minister will be looking at options for providing employment and training for all nursing and midwifery graduates – delivered under the new Safe Staffing Accord.

I see new buildings, new services, new initiatives for our peoples, and I have hope.

It will take more struggle to clear away all the dark clouds over our public health system – and the deeper chill still lying across the rest of the sector. But as our courage and passion spreads, so, too, do the cracks in the ice.

In November, the first-ever collective action by NZNO members at Ngāti Porou Hauora confronted historic injustices facing Māori and iwi health providers. Trying to survive on meagre government funding, these providers pay nurses around 25 per cent less than those working for DHBs; some are also having to cut services to survive. 

And December saw members at Family Planning vote to strike for the first time.

But before we take up the struggle again, it’s time to celebrate. Summer is here. Let’s make it a good one.

Whether you’re working through, or have leave approved, I hope you are all able to enjoy some time in the sun with your loved ones. I will be.

Our son is older now, and has a younger sister. From our whānau to yours, I wish you a happy festive season. •

(First published in the December/January issue of Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand. Reposted with permission).

Where are the Pacific nursing voices?

Former Cook Islands health secretary Elizabeth Iro (centre) received a ceremonial welcome home at the start of the 19th South Pacific Nurses Forum, where the NZNO delegation included (left to right) president Grant Brookes, Pacific Nurses Section chair ‘Eseta Finau, kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku and kaumātua Keelan Ransfield. 

The relationship that world health and nursing bodies have with the Pacific came under the spotlight at the South Pacific Nurses Forum.

By NZNO president Grant Brookes

Former Cook Islands health secretary Elizabeth Iro received a ceremonial welcome home at the start of the 19th South Pacific Nurses Forum (SPNF), held in the Cook Islands capital, Avarua, in October.

Her 2017 appointment to the re-established role of chief nursing officer at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, followed this year by the selection of Isabelle Skinner, of Australia, to head the International Council of Nurses (ICN), has brought the global institutions into closer contact with Pacific nursing.

The WHO, ICN and the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) were all represented at the forum. Debates over their relationship with the Pacific arose from the outset.

These debates took centre stage during the half-day biennial general meeting (BGM) of SPNF member organisations, where NZNO was represented by kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku, Pacific Nurses Section chair ‘Eseta Finau and myself. They were also heard in the joint meeting with South Pacific chief nursing and midwifery officers which ended the 19th SPNF.

Nursing Now concerns

Concerns were already growing ahead of the forum over a proposed Pacific launch of the global Nursing Now campaign.Nursing Now is a three-year campaign to raise the status and profile of nursing. Although run in collaboration with ICN and WHO, it is a programme of the Burdett Trust for Nursing in the United Kingdom (UK), based on a report by members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons in London.

Some SPNF delegates felt there had been insufficient information and consultation with member organisations to allow them to endorse Nursing Now.

Others asked where the voices of the indigenous nurses of the Pacific were reflected in the campaign. For these reasons, NZNO decided to abstain from the launch.

The SPNF BGM later resolved to approach the board of Nursing Now to recommend that two indigenous representatives be appointed to the board.

Questions were also raised of the WHO, about why the nursing advisor role in their western Pacific regional office in Suva had been vacant since 2013. The joint meeting with chief nursing and midwifery officers agreed to write to the WHO South Pacific representative, seeking the re-establishment of this position.

The 19th SPNF concluded by expressing a willingness to restart joint work agreed at the previous forum in 2016, on opportunities to align regional regulatory frameworks for nurses and midwives across Pacific nations and on post-graduate education requirements in line with health workforce needs. •

(First published in Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand. Reposted with permission). 

Related coverage

‘Helping across borders’


Helping across borders

Last month’s South Pacific Nurses Forum in the Cook Islands stressed the importance of cross-border health learning.

By NZNO president Grant Brookes

2 (crop)
NZNO representatives spend time with World Health Organization chief nursing officer Elizabeth Iro (centre). From left, NZNO president Grant Brookes, Pacific Nursing Section chair ‘Eseta Finau, kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku and kaumātua Keelan Ransfield. Photo/Abel Smith

“Our country borders should not be used as an excuse not to help each other.” With these words, Cook Islands Health Minister Vainetutai Rose Toki-Brown opened the 19th South Pacific Nurses Forum (SPNF), held in the capital, Avarua, last month.

The conference attracted about 300 participants, including official delegations from the 13 forum countries.

NZNO/Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa was represented by kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku, chief executive Memo Musa, Pacific nursing section chair ‘Eseta Finau and president Grant Brookes, supported by kaumātua Keelan Ransfield.

Many others from New Zealand also participated – from academics to clinicians to leaders of nursing organisations. There were 45 presentations over four days on the theme, Transforming leadership – Nurses as change agents for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the Pacific. A strong focus was on the need for nurses to help each other across borders.

The South Pacific comprises nine of 10 countries in the world with the highest obesity rates, threatening a “tsunami” of NCDs across our region. The impacts of climate change were likewise highlighted as requiring regional collaboration.

We were reminded that the causes of these looming health crises also lie outside the borders of Pacific nations.

New Zealand’s and Australia’s multi-faceted role in the Pacific was showcased in a number of presentations. Since 2015, a mobile eye clinic, provided by the Fred Hollows Foundation, has delivered services to more than 23,000 people in Fiji, from nurse-led screening clinics to free spectacles, to cataract surgery and diabetic retinopathy laser treatment.

In the Kingdom of Tonga, support from Waitematā District Health Board (DHB) has enabled nurse leaders to develop and implement a culturally appropriate clinical governance framework.

Co-presenting with Janine Mohamed of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives, Nuku highlighted the role of Te Rūnanga o Aotearoa in creating an emerging alliance of indigenous nurses in the Pacific and beyond.

Maternal and child health

One day of the forum focused on midwifery and maternal and infant health. Vice-president of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) Mary Kirk spoke of ICM’s “twinning programme”, which pairs midwifery associations in high-income countries with those in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). “The benefits don’t flow only one way,” she said. “Both learn from each other.”

Presenters from LMIC island nations reported measures to tackle NCDs and other population health needs, measures that, in some cases, are more advanced than those in New Zealand.

A majority of Pacific countries have already introduced a tax on sugary drinks, while Tokelau has banned sugar-sweetened beverages altogether.

Strong nurse-led primary health care (PHC) and public health services in many Pacific countries have resulted in some higher health coverage indicators, eg vaccination rates, compared with New Zealand.

Presentations on nurse-led NCD clinics in the northern group of the Cook Islands (where there are no airfields and ships may visit once every four months), and in Tonga’s Vava’u group set the gold standard for universal health coverage and “leaving no-one behind”, no matter how remote.

A role delineation project in the Solomon Islands has mapped the country’s PHC services, nursing workforce distribution and workloads, utilisation rates down to clinic level, and current and projected population health needs. A national plan to improve health coverage and health equity, while at the same time balancing workloads and matching the nursing workforce to demand, has developed. New Zealand might benefit from developing such planning capacity.

The very idea of a border between New Zealand and the Pacific seemed to disappear altogether in some presentations. Manukau Institute of Technology senior academic lecturer Metua Daniel-Atutolu presented on a recent student placement in the Cook Islands. This aimed to strengthen students’ clinical and cultural competence to practise among Pacific communities in New Zealand.

Auckland parish community nurse (PCN) Loli Channing described how her role fits with the “healthy village action zone” model of care. This model was developed to align with the values of Pacific peoples in New Zealand. She encouraged conference participants to explore the role of the PCN in their own Pacific nations.

Auckland District Health Board clinical nurse specialist in HIV Sonya Apa Temata presented an approach to health and well-being based on Cook Islands indigenous epistemologies, developed in Aotearoa.

The four days of the forum demonstrated the truth of a quote from the ICM vice-president’s talk, which we would do well to remember: “If I go alone, I may go faster. But if we go together, we will go further.” •

(First published in Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand, November 2018. Reposted with permission. Additional coverage held over to the December issue).

Related coverage:

‘Where are the Pacific nursing voices?’

The President comments: ‘NZNO’s bold new experiment in democracy’

NZNO HAS embarked on a bold new experiment in democracy. That, for me, was the big news to come out of our annual general meeting (AGM) and conference, held in Wellington last month.

The two-day event, which was preceded by colleges and sections day and the National Student Unit AGM, attracted around 230 members, staff and guests (see coverage, p11-19).

Around 230 people attended the NZNO AGM and conference last month

We celebrated the outstanding achievement and service of members at our NZNO awards dinner. And presentations by an amazing group of cross-sector leaders on the second day helped us all raise our sights and embrace the conference theme, Health is a human right – optimising nursing to make it happen.

But it was on day one that the major decisions were made. As I noted in my opening address, we had come together on Suffrage Day, and at the end of a turbulent year for our union and our profession.

Overshadowing all else in the last 12 months has been the bargaining in the district health board sector. The effects of nine years of underfunding, which we highlighted and campaigned against in 2017, finally compelled us to take unprecedented industrial action.

The MECA bargaining sparked a campaign of extraordinary drive and determination, on the part of NZNO members and staff alike. Together, we achieved momentous things.

But there were also problems. As we faced difficult decisions, differences emerged between members, and between members and their representatives. Some felt the voice of members was not being heard.

Unity out of division

These differences were seen again in the debates on the conference floor. But the democracy that the Suffragists fought for, back in 1893, has the power to forge unity out of division. A democratic vote can resolve many individual differences into one collective union decision.

So the decision by AGM delegates to deepen and strengthen democracy within NZNO could be the most important thing to happen to our organisation in a long time.

Up until now, voting on proposed changes to NZNO policies and our constitution has been done at the AGM. Only those who attended got to vote.

From next year, however, all members will be able to vote online on these matters, with the results announced at AGM. Agreement to move to the “one member, one vote” system means the voice of members will be heard more clearly.

Jennie Rae, a mental health nurse from Taranaki, introduces the proposal to move to the “one member, one vote” system.

For me, as your president, the 2018 AGM and conference marked the start of my second term in office. I pledged to delegates that over the next three years I will work for NZNO’s renewal, in partnership with the kaiwhakahaere and in conjunction with the board and chief executive.

In every organisation, there are always a few who want to keep things as they are. But I never underestimate our collective power as NZNO members to deliver renewal.

AGM delegates have placed their trust in their fellow members. Now the obligation is on us to live up to this trust, to participate wisely in the new democratic process to make sure NZNO is the open and responsive organisation we need. •

First published in the October 2018 issue of Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand. Reposted with permission.

‘Unity, democracy & NZNO renewal’ – Presidential address to NZNO AGM 2018

IMG_1717 (crop)

Ko Rangi, ko Papa

Ka puta ko Rongo

Ko Tāne Māhuta, ko Tangaroa.

Ko Tūmatauenga, ko Haumietiketike, ko Tāwhirimātea.

Tokona te Rangi ki runga, te Papa ki raro

Ka puta te ira tangata, ki te whaiao, ki te āo mārama.

E Rongo whakairia ake ki runga

Kia tina! 

Hui e! Tāiki e! 

Ko te kupu tuatahi ka tuku ki te Kaihanga. Ko te tika ka mihi anō ki te iwi kāinga me o rātou wāhi tapu. 

E ngā mate, haere, haere, haere. Rātou te hunga mate ki a rātou. Tātou te hunga ora e huihui mai nei, tēnā tātou. 

Ko te wā mō te hui taumata o te Tōpūtanga Taphui Kaitiaki o Aotearoa, ā, ka maumahara ahau ki te whakataukī: He ora te whakapiri, he mate te whakatakariri. 

Nō reira, e rau rangatira mā, e nga manuhiri tūārangi, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa. 


In English: From Rangi and Papa, came Rongo, Tāne Māhuta, Tangaroa, Tūmatauenga, Haumietiketike, and Tāwhirimātea. When Rangi was separated to stay above and Papa below, the human element emerged into the world of light and understanding. So suspend it in the heavens above, Rongo, so it remains fixed there permanently, securely!

With this karakia recounting the beginning of all things, I began our meeting. 

I greeted the tangata whenua, and their sacred places. Greetings to those who have passed on, since we last gathered here together. 

We have mourned the passing of great leaders from our NZNO whānau, this past year. 

Shortly after our 2017 AGM, I joined a group from NZNO at the tangi for NZNO kuia Vera Morgan. ‘Aunty Vera’, as she was affectionately known, began her involvement with our organisation 18 years ago. She was invited into the NZNO whānau by the then Te Rūnanga Chair, Sharon Morunga. During her time with NZNO she worked alongside Rev Leo Te Kira as they jointly developed the NZNO Philosophy – “Me haeretahi tātou mō te hauora me te oranga o ngā iwi katoa o Aotearoa: let us journey together for the health and wellbeing of the people of Aotearoa”.

Two months later, in December, Elsie Boyd passed away aged 95. Elsie had trained at Nelson Hospital, registering in 1945. After years of theatre nursing in Auckland and teaching at the then Post-Graduate School for Nurses in Wellington, she joined the Department of Health where she served successive governments up until her retirement in 1980. 

And in the new year, two other leaders departed from us. 

Brent South, who died in Timaru in February, was instrumental in setting up the NZNO District Nurses Section, and served as its Chair from 1996-2001. His colleagues acknowledged his contribution with the creation of the Brent South Award. The Section later became part of the NZ College of Primary Health Care Nurses. To you I offer my condolences, for the passing of one of your founders. 

And in March, Maureen Laws passed away in Wellington. Maureen completed her nurse training in Christchurch in 1960. Over decades, she made an enormous contribution to NZNO and to our forerunner, the New Zealand Nurses Association. That contribution was recognised by her NZNO Award of Honour in 1991. Maureen continued to serve the profession, as a trustee of the Nursing Education and Research Foundation, up until 2014. 

Those who have gone before, are with us. 

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So I greet those gathered here, among the living. And as I do, I recall the whakataukī: “He ora te whakapiri, he mate te whakatakariri”. “There is strength in unity, defeat in anger and division”. 

To the leaders too many to name, and to guests from afar – greetings, greetings, greetings one and all. 


We come together today on Suffrage Day, and at the end of a turbulent year for our union and our profession. As we start our AGM, I’d like to briefly reflect on these topics. 

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Overshadowing all else in the last year has been, of course, the bargaining in the DHB Sector. The effects of nine years of underfunding, which we highlighted and rallied against here last year, finally compelled us to take unprecedented industrial action. 

The MECA bargaining sparked a campaign of extraordinary drive and determination, on the part of NZNO members and staff alike. Together, we achieved momentous things. 

But there were problems. As we faced difficult decisions, differences emerged between members, and between members and their representatives. At times there were signs of the “anger and division” our whakataukī warns about. 

What has enabled us to start overcoming the differences – and I stress, we’ve only just begun that process – is the precious treasure we celebrate this Suffrage Day. 

125 years ago today, the Electoral Act of 1893 was signed into law. No longer would some have to depend on others – husbands, fathers, brothers, or sons – to hopefully vote in their best interests. At last, everyone had gained the right to cast their own vote. 

It’s this democracy we celebrate today that has the power to forge unity, out of division. A democratic vote can resolve many individual differences into one collective union decision. As we continue the democratic process of overcoming differences, strength will grow; “he ora te whakapiri”. 

But healthy democracy is more than simply majority rule. 

We got through the most turbulent times this year because we’re not just trade unionists. As nurses and midwives, we are also professionals. Our collective efforts were not only for ourselves. We were fighting for a better health system, for all. 

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As professionals we proudly uphold principles, like those in the Code of Conduct for Nurses. The Code tells us to “work respectfully with colleagues to best meet health consumers’ needs”. To maintain its standards, we “treat colleagues with respect, working with them in a professional, collaborative and co-operative manner”. We “recognise that others have a right to hold different opinions.” 

Our professionalism therefore reminds us to work respectfully with colleagues, who may be in the minority. It reminds a majority that others have a right to hold different opinions – and to remain collaborative towards them. 

Soon we’ll begin the business of voting on the previous minutes, reports and remits. The AGM also reviews and ratifies the Board’s strategic policy decisions. This happens because AGM delegates in years past added these democratic checks and balances into our Constitution.

So this annual meeting is where, in between the elections for the Board and Officers, members exercise democratic control in this member-run organisation. It’s where we, up here, are accountable to you, our fellow members. 

Finally for me, as your President, today marks the completion of my first three-year term in office and the start of my second. 

Back in 2015, in my first address to an NZNO AGM, I pledged: 

• To “be accessible to members”, online and in your locality 

• To ”make your issues visible… [in] the media”, including on social media 

• To “strengthen NZNO’s bicultural partnership” 

• To support more members “to actively participate in NZNO” 

I can look back with satisfaction at progress that’s been made. But there is also some unfinished business. 

Our issues have become visible, as never before – especially on social media. I hope I played a part. Participation rates in some NZNO activities, like MECA votes, have reached record levels, thanks to online voting. 

Yet barriers still remain to participation by members in some of our NZNO structures and democratic processes. And more work will be required to strengthen our bicultural partnerships. 

Despite this, it is time to turn attention to fulfilling my new commitments to you. 

The events of the last year have revealed a need for change. In seeking a second term as President, therefore, I announced back in March in my candidate statement that I was seeking a mandate to lead NZNO’s renewal, in partnership with the Kaiwhakahaere and in conjunction with the Board and Chief Executive. 

An opportunity for renewal has been provided. The Board has agreed in principle that a review of NZNO’s operational structure will accompany the drafting of our new Strategic Plan. 

My pledge back in March said that “NZNO will be open and responsive to… members”. Having secured a fresh mandate and a second term, it’s that pledge I make again to you now. 

Nō reira e te whānau, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.