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).

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