Strengthening NZNO’s bicultural relationships

First published in Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand, February 2016. Reproduced with permission.

12642467_10208230636149412_9220235493931106726_nASK ANY nurse to name the Nursing Council competency they find hardest to demonstrate in their self-appraisals and, chances are, they’ll pick competency 1.2 (applying the Treaty of Waitangi to practice).

This month, we commemorated the 176th anniversary of the signing of our nation’s founding document. So why is it still so hard for many of us to document how we apply the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi/Te Tiriti o Waitangi to nursing practice? What can be done to change that? And why does it matter, anyway?

One reason it matters to all healthcare workers is the ongoing disparity in health status between Māori and non-Māori.

This disparity can be partly explained by factors outside the clinical setting, such as the socio-economic determinants of health. But the data shows the disparity is also partly down to us and the care we deliver in the health system.

Equally, though, extending our understanding and application of Te Tiriti provides a rich pathway to development. When Māori speak about working in a mainstream organisation, they sometimes talk of “walking in two worlds”. For them, that’s a necessity.

Pākehā and other tauiwi have the privilege of choosing to expand the horizons of their world, by embracing other ways of seeing and other models of health, like Te Whare Tapa Whā.

There’s an Aboriginal saying about working biculturally: “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together”.

Te Tiriti also matters to NZNO. As our newly-adopted NZNO Strategic Plan 2015-2020 puts it, we must “integrate bicultural practices and apply a bicultural lens to the way we work”, to fulfil our constitutional mission.

Bicultural journey

NZNO has been on a journey towards biculturalism ever since it was formed in 1993. We are enormously fortunate to have established a relationship between NZNO and Te Rūnanga o Aotearoa, along with a co-leadership model, with the president and kaiwhakahaere working alongside each other.

But, as we were reminded at last year’s AGM and conference by guest speaker Heather Came, we’re still not completely there yet. At the close of the conference, Chief Nurse Jane O’Malley summed up Came’s message: “Her challenge to this organisation is, what is your plan for institutional racism?”

Some of the conference delegates have already gone back to their committees and started working on plans.

I want to support all NZNO groups to work on this issue. Our bicultural relationships are just like the other relationships in our lives. Even when they’re going well, we need to keep nurturing them, if we want them to remain fulfilling.

When NZNO achieves its bicultural goals, then, as the Strategic Plan 2015-2020 says, it will also “strengthen NZNO members’ ability to recognise and demonstrate an understanding of tikanga Māori”.

We would like to reach the point where all nurses feel confident in demonstrating how they apply Te Tiriti in their practice. When we get to this point, we will have achieved the highest health status for all. •

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