Presidential address to NZNO AGM 2015


Whakarongo ake au 

Ki te tangi a te manu nei

Tūī, tūī

Tui, tuia.

Tuia i runga

Tuia i raro

Tuia i roto

Tuia i waho

Tihei Mauri Ora!

Ko te mihi tuatahi ki te Atua, nana nei ngā mea katoa.

E te iwi kāinga, tēnā koutou. Ko Taranaki Whānui ki Te Ūpoko o Te Ika te tangata whenua, ā, kei a rātou te mana whenua i tēnei wāhi. 

E te maunga e tū mai rā, tēnā koe Pukeauta. 

Ki te Awa Kairangi, tēnā koe. 

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

E rau rangatira mā, e nga manuhiri tūārangi, tēnā tātou katoa. 

I listen to the call of the bird, the tui. Bind together, stitch together, weave together, those things from above, those things from below, those things from within us, those things from around us.

Greetings to the Atua, and to the tangata whenua, their sacred mountain and river. Greetings to those who have passed on, and to the living gathered here. To the many leaders, and guests from afar, greetings to one and all.

I will start with the thank yous. To those in this room and beyond who elected me to be NZNO President, I am honoured by your support.

I’ve gotta say, you guys must have been pretty sure of yourselves, because it seems you were prepared to overlook a fairly obvious shortcoming in your new President.

His gender, of course!

But all jokes aside…

I began by talking about a bird, a tui. It is a customary chant, among some iwi, for opening a speech.

But here, today, what is this bird I harken to? What is this tui?

It is the membership of NZNO. It is their call which binds us together.

NZNO members have voted for change. What does the result mean – for us and for NZNO’s direction over the next three years of my term?

Firstly, and most obviously, the vote represents the decision of the 6,263 people who took part in the ballot – 13.6 percent of the membership.

And what does this 13.6 percent signify?

On the one hand, it represents the second highest turnout in a Presidential election since NZNO’s formation in 1993.

And yet, on the other hand, 13.6 percent is still a small voice, hardly enough on its own to be the clear song of the tui.

For many of these 6,263 members, however, the Presidential election was not the first time this year that they’d voted for change. In May, over 9,000 members in the DHB Sector took part in a vote to overwhelmingly reject the employers’ offer, and to call for something better in their MECA.

I think these two votes – for a better deal at work, and for a new NZNO leadership – have to be seen as interconnected. There is an obvious reason for this – members knew me as both a Presidential candidate, and a member of the DHB MECA negotiating team.

These two roles were kept separate. But as part of the negotiating team, I became privy to information about the views and priorities of large numbers of NZNO members. For those in the DHB Sector, I learned what you think about your pay, your staffing levels, your professional development opportunities. I found out how you feel about the way you’re being treated.

As we start to supplement the message in the election results in this way, it can be seen how the call of the tui starts to grow more distinct. We hear that members want a stronger industrial presence, as well as a stronger professional profile, for NZNO. And that, in turn, shaped the election outcome.

Then there are other authoritative sources of information on what members want. I want to recognise in particular the perception of our outgoing President. In Kai Tiaki this year, Marion has commented that members want more “visibility in the media” from the President. And she expressed the belief that “both co-leaders needed to be more visible in the organisation and engage more with member groups”.

As I travelled this year to met with members from Dunedin to Auckland, and used all social media avenues at my disposal, these desires of the membership found their instrument.

And finally, we also need to remember that NZNO members are part of the community, and will share many of the prevailing public attitudes, like those reported in the quarterly survey by Roy Morgan Research.

The combination of poverty and inequality emerged as the most important issue in the survey back in 2013, and has only grown in importance since then. It is now far and away the biggest problem facing New Zealanders, according to the poll.

NZNO members work at the sharp end of all this. We see the distressing health inequalities daily in our practice. We see the impact of poverty, and the disparities for Māori and Pacific people.

Many, many things will be needed to reduce these health inequalities. But I will mention two. Tackling this issue for members will require an unrelenting focus by NZNO on the social determinants of health. And progress will not be possible without the strengthening of NZNO’s bicultural partnership.

In a democratic, member-run organisation like NZNO, leaders have a responsibility to lead. But ultimately, our direction is set by the membership.

Over the course of this year, members have spoken, and if we listen carefully then the meaning of their call is clear. In any event, it is clear to me.

At every opportunity during the election campaign, and since, I have stressed my commitment to building NZNO’s dual identity as a professional association and registered union.

In the real world, professionalism does not exist in a vacuum, but always in the context of industrial realities. On the one hand, our professional vision gives direction and purpose to our union organising. And on the other, our professional aspirations to deliver excellent care are given real weight only when backed by collective strength.

This perspective, I believe, has now been endorsed by the membership. And I am pleased to see it reflected in our new Strategic Plan which we endorsed today.

Flowing from this, I maintain that building NZNO’s dual identity means developing confident workplace leaders and delegates who are well-trained and well-supported, based on NZNO’s organising model. And it means supporting members whenever they join together in collective action for nursing and health.

During the election campaign, and since, I have also demonstrated my commitment to accessibility. I will continue to be available, in person in your locality or via email and social media. And I pledge to help make your issues visible, as part of supporting a higher media profile for NZNO members generally. This is the will of the membership.

I’m pleased to report that last night I was interviewed by a Fairfax journalist, for an article on pay equity, and I understand that there will be an NZNO voice in the Sunday Star-Times this weekend.

In demonstrating commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Tikanga Māori, Matauranga Māori and bi-cultural values, I hope to lead by example – for example by learning and modelling the use of Te Reo me ōna tikanga – the language and its codes of conduct. All the while, acknowledging that the authority, or mana, remains with the holders of cultural expertise in Te Rūnanga.

Because over and above the requirements of our Constitution, it is my personal conviction that what’s good for Māori is good for the majority.

I will be upfront about an area of possible debate within the new NZNO leadership team, however. I will be monitoring how practices drawn from the corporate world are used, in pursuit of the strategic goal of making NZNO an “Effective Organisation”? I am confident, though, that ongoing, constructive dialogue will ensure that business and commercial acumen will serve, rather than dominate, NZNO’s agenda for nursing and health.

Heeding the voice of the membership is not a one-off event, but a continuous process. As President, I will keep listening to the call of the tui.

And I hope that as members are heard and supported, and as members see their views reflected in our direction, that more and more are encouraged to write that submission, or attend that meeting. I know that actively participating in NZNO membership structures means voluntary work, on top of long hours in paid employment or study – and often after caring for family members as well.

But whether you’re in a Regional Council or a Health Sector National Delegates Committee, a College or Section, Te Rūnanga o Aotearoa NZNO or the National Student Unit, I want to hear from you and your constituents. And I’ll give a special plug right now for perhaps the most important group you never heard of until today – the Membership Committee. Along with Te Poari, you are the throat of our beautiful blue-black bird, where the voice emerges. More power to you!

Over the rest of today and tomorrow, the transfer of NZNO leadership from the outgoing to the incoming office-holders will be completed.

I want to pay tribute to Marion, for the many years of service she has given. Starting in 1998 as the local Chair of the Practice Nurses Section, Marion has dedicated the last 16 years of her life to NZNO. She has represented us on the national and international stage. Marion, I wish you all the very best in her next venture. I know you will continue to make a valuable contribution, wherever you direct your energies in the future.

And I want to reiterate that NZNO members have voted for change, and the turnout has delivered one of the strongest Presidential mandates in NZNO history. I intend to use this mandate to serve the legitimate and collective interests of all members and the health of the people we care for, as I have now outlined.

Over the next three years, I look forward to working with the Kaiwhakahaere, with the CEO, with all the members of NZNO’s governance and leadership teams and with our external stakeholders, on this agenda for change.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

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