‘My role & priorities as President’ – Speech to NZNO Tai Tokerau Regional Convention


Tuhia ki te rangi

Tuhia ki te whenua

Tuhia ki te ngakau o nga tangata

Ko te mea nui

Ko te aroha

Tihei wa Mauri Ora!

Kei te tū ahau ki te tautoko i ngā mihi ki te Kaihanga. Koia rā te timatanga me te whakamutunga o ngā mea katoa.

Kei te mihi anō ki a Manaia, ki a Whangārei-te-rerenga-parāoa hoki.

E te tiamana, tēnā koe Melinda. Ngā mihi ki a koe mō tō pōwhiri.

E ngā rangatira, Kerri, Memo, e ngā kaimahi me ngā kaiārahi nēhi katoa, tēnā koutou.

Ko wai ahau?

Ko Kapukataumahaka te maunga

Ko Ōwheo te awa

Ko Cornwall te waka

Nō Ōtepoti ahau

Ko Don rāua ko Helen ōku mātua

He tangata tiriti ahau

Ko Grant Brookes tōku ingoa.

Kia whakamārama ake tātou i ngā tikanga ngaio me ngā ahumahi o te nēhi, tēnei te kaupapa o te hui. Nā konei te whakataukī, “Ma te huruhuru, ka rere te manu”.

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

Write it in the sky, write it in the land, write it in the heart of the people. The greatest thing is love.

I stand to support the acknowledgements to the Creator, the beginning and end of all things. I also greet Mount Manaia, and Whangārei-te-rerenga-parāoa, the gathering place of whales.

I greet the Regional Council Chair, Melinda. Thanks to you for your invitation. To the chiefs, Kerri and Memo, to the staff and all the nursing leaders, greetings.

Who am I?

I hail from Dunedin. I grew up at the foot of Mt Cargill and by the Water of Leith.

I am the son of Don and Helen, descended from those arriving on the ship, Cornwall. My name is Grant Brookes.

Increasing the understanding of the professional and industrial nursing issues is the purpose of this convention. As the proverb says, “Adorn the bird with feather so it can fly”. In sharing it, I also acknowledge the mana whenua of Ngāpuhi, to whom this whakatauki belongs.


My invitation to attend today contained a request for me to give a brief presentation on my role and priorities as President. Ten minutes, tops – brief indeed.

But I am grateful for the topic, and the opportunity to explain, because I believe that the the role of President as I have come to know it, is not well understood.

So what is the role of NZNO President? What does it entail? What should the President do, and what can they not do?

Many of you will remember a number of people who have filled this role, over the years. And perhaps you will picture one of them, when you think of the role. Because of this, it can be hard to separate the role from the person, and see it for what it is.

Also, the role changed in a major way in 2012, when it became a full-time position under the new NZNO Constitution.

I am the seventh person to hold this position, and the second full-time President.

The current role has a Scope of Activities (which is a bit like a position description). It says:

“The President (in partnership with the Kaiwhakahaere) is responsible to the Board of Directors and… to all members through the Annual General Meeting of NZNO.”

“The President (in partnership with the Kaiwhakahaere) is the governance leader of NZNO and co-chair of the Board of Directors. In essence this is a job share situation requiring negotiation between the President and Kaiwhakahaere as to the performance of their shared responsibilities.”

“The President is vested with… authority vested in the Board as a whole and… has no authority independent of the authority of the Board as a whole.” Because it is the Board of Directors which holds constitutional authority in NZNO, the upcoming elections to the Board are very important.

“The role of the President is governance leadership. The President has no authority to direct or constrain the chief executive in the authorised and legitimate performance of her or his management duties. NZNO staff do not report to the President.”

I think it’s important to spell out these points, because while I am accountable to all members, there are aspects of NZNO which are outside my scope – at least in my individual capacity – under the current model. I think that a better understanding of this would lead – amongst other things – to more congruence between member expectations and role performance by the President.

So, what then is within my scope, and what are my priorities as President?

The Scope of Activities states that, “The President shall prepare an Annual Work Plan setting out their activities for the forthcoming year for approval by the Board”.

My Work Plan has three main areas of responsibility – Governance Leadership/Rangatiratanga, Membership Engagement/Whanaungatanga and Stakeholder Relationships. I’d like to share a few parts of the plan which I have prepared, which I believe show my priorities.

Within the area of Governance Leadership/Rangatiratanga, I have highlighted the need to be a spokesperson for NZNO where appropriate – to be the public face of the board and members.

I’ve heard a lot from other members – over may years – that they want more visibility from their co-leaders.

There have been two parts to this – being visible and accessible to members, and then making your issues visible to others.

During the election campaign I pledged that if elected, I would be accessible and available to you, in person in your locality or via email and social media. And I would make your issues visible, to decision-makers and to the public they’re accountable to.

This is why, for instance, I have travelled to 17 out of the 20 DHB districts over the last year, to meet with members in their workplaces. And after talking yesterday with your NDHB Director of Nursing, Margareth Broodkoorn, there is agreement that I may come again to visit members here.

Sometimes the wish for greater public visibility of NZNO has been expressed as an explicit desire for more media airtime. This is hard. It has always been the case that we have little influence over what the media covers, and how they choose to cover it. And the problem has only grown worse as journalism has been progressively run down in this country. So while I have had some small successes in getting your issues on TV and radio and in the papers, it is the view of the NZNO Media Advisor that we should focus more on channels where we can get our messages out reliably – especially through blogs and social media.

This is shaping how I express my priority of greater visibility for nursing and NZNO.

A second priority for me is increasing member participation in NZNO. This priority falls under the area of Membership Engagement/Whanaungatanga, in my President’s Work Plan.

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. At times, you may also see little evidence that your input has been valued. Perhaps this is why participation is lower than it needs to be, to maintain the health of NZNO as a member-run organisation.

Concern about this state of affairs led Kerri and I to call, in March, the first ever summit meeting of the chairs of all Regional Councils and TR regions, the NSU and Colleges and Sections. The meeting identified barriers to member participation, and some possible solutions. In the second half of this year, we will start to develop change proposals arising from this meeting.

My hope that as members are heard and supported, and as members see themselves and their views reflected in our direction, that more and more of you are encouraged to write that submission, or attend that meeting – even after another long day.

Another of my priorities is strengthening NZNO’s bicultural relationships.

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. The NZNO Board is introducing changes to make NZNO more responsive to Māori.

But, as we were reminded at last year’s AGM and conference by guest speaker Heather Came, we’re still not completely there yet. I want to work with Te Poari 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.

The fourth and final priority as President, which I’ll share with you today, is one which I expressed in my first media release as NZNO President, last August: “I look forward building NZNO’s dual identity”, I said, “as a professional association and registered union”. This is also built into the structure of my Work Plan, where I share responsibility for maintaining Stakeholder Relationships with the the Council of Trade Unions, as well as with other professional nursing bodies.

There has been a tendency to see our trade union identity as a problem. I pondered about this tendency in Kai Tiaki last November. I’d like to read excerpts from my column, to illustrate this priority.

“I wonder if [seeing our union identity as a problem] derives from a view that professional and industrial issues somehow belong to separate, even opposing dimensions”, I said. “Perhaps there’s a related belief that greater attention paid to one dimension means less attention for the other.

After all, NZNO staff are organised into separate professional and industrial teams. One team focuses on strategies to strengthen confidence in nurses in support of greater status and authority, in line with other powerful professions. It works closely with members belonging to NZNO’s colleges and sections.

The other team focuses on strategies to promote fairness at work, for all. It draws on the power afforded by employment rights and the caring work we collectively perform. This team provides close support for workplace delegates.

The idea that they’re somehow in competition leads to arguments about the right “balance” – or worse, advocacy for one strategy, over the other…

[But] professional and industrial realities are not opposing dimensions, but inseparable parts of a whole…

Strategies should not be based on one part of our reality, or the other, but on the shared goal we’re trying to achieve.

I believe that in the broadest sense, the goal we are pursuing as NZNO members is the wellbeing of people…

Viewed from this perspective, our industrial and professional (and political) strategies become mutually reinforcing approaches…

By proudly embracing our dual identity as a professional association and registered union, NZNO members can achieve our common goal together.”

So that’s my ten minutes up. Thank you for your time. I look forward to talking with you more over the course of the day.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s