Today I was in Nelson/Whakatū, for the NZNO Top of the South Regional Convention. It was great to be back, with my feet on the Mainland where I come from, on the day before Pink Shirt Day. As you can see, I was dressed for the occasion.
Celebrated annually around the globe, Pink Shirt Day began in Canada in 2007 when two students, David Shepherd and Travis Price, took a stand against homophobic bullying after a new Year 10 student was harassed and threatened for wearing pink. Pink Shirt Day aims to create schools, workplaces and communities where all people feel safe, valued and respected.
My older child Tama is a Year 10 student this year. He’s in the LGBTQI+ club at his high school, and he wears pink. I’m wearing this shirt partly for him. He says it’s ok to tell you this.
But many of us at the NZNO Convention and elsewhere in health, I know, have experienced bullying from people in positions of power.
Perhaps some are facing that situation in our working lives right now.
Bullying takes a terrible toll – not only on us as nurses, midwives and healthcare workers but also indirectly on those we care for, because we can’t give of ourselves fully when we’re anxious, stressed and worried.
In recognition of this, one of the other NZNO Regional Conventions in Palmerston North last month featured a session on bullying, from NZNO Organiser Deb Chappell. It was profoundly insightful and very practical. A few of you may have seen Deb’s presentation at the 2018 NZNO AGM and Conference in Wellington. I first came across it at the Greater Auckland Regional Convention last year.
Some of Deb’s points have stuck in my mind.
Bullies, she said, thrive on secrecy. They work by isolating us from our support networks. They make sure nobody else knows what’s going on. They say to us, we’ll only make it worse for ourselves if we tell.
But as a fellow survivor of bullying, I’m here to tell you that I believe in the message of Pink Shirt Day 2019: “Kōrero Mai, Kōrero Atu, Mauri Tū, Mauri Ora”.
If we speak up and stand together, we can stop the bullying. And as soon as we do that, suddenly the weight starts to lift and it can become so unexpectedly easy.
If you believe you’re being bullied, as NZNO members you can reach out for help by calling the Member Support Centre on 0800 28 38 48.
You are not alone. We’re in this together, and we will overcome.