‘Strength in unity, defeat in anger and division’ – Speech to NZNO AGM 2019

Korihi te manu, tākiri mai i te ata

Ka ao, ka ao, ka awatea – tīhei mauri ora! 

Ko te kupu tuatahi ka tuku ki te Kaihanga. Ko te tika kia mihi anō ki te iwi kāinga me o rātou wāhi tapu. 

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

Ko te wā mō te hui taumata o te Tōpūtanga Taphui Kaitiaki o Aotearoa, ā, ka maumahara ahau ki te whakataukī: He ora te whakapiri, he mate te whakatakariri. 

Nō reira, e rau rangatira mā, e nga manuhiri tūārangi, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa. 


And in English: The bird sings, the morning has dawned, the day has broken. Behold, there is life! 

The first word is to the Creator. It is right also to greeting the iwi of this place and their sacred places. Greetings to those who have passed on, since we last gathered here together. 

We have mourned the passing of more great leaders from our NZNO whānau, this past year.

Two years ago, on this stage, Joy Millar accepted the NZNO Award for Services to Nursing & Midwifery.

In memoriam – Joy Millar, RN, winner of the 2016 NZNO Award for Services to Nursing/Midwifery.

It was richly deserved. Joy had trained in Auckland, where she lived most of her life, graduating from nursing school in 1968. Her dedication to nursing and her Christian faith took her to Cambodia in 1975, where she worked with refugees fleeing the war and there began her life long passion for humanitarian work. Over the next 50 plus years, she would work as a nursing volunteer in many low and middle income countries. 

Joy was last with us all, here in this room, as part of the Greater Auckland Region delegation in 2017. My condolences to GAR for your loss. 

Joy missed the 2018 AGM due to illness, but recovered in time to return one last time to her beloved Pacific. I last had the pleasure and privilege of Joy’s company at the South Pacific Nurses Forum in the Cook Islands last October. 

All those who have gone before, are with us. 

So I greet those gathered here, among the living. And as I do, I recall the whakataukī: “He ora te whakapiri, he mate te whakatakariri”. “There is strength in unity, defeat in anger and division”. 

To the leaders too many to name, and to guests from afar – greetings, greetings, greetings one and all. 


We meet today under some extraordinary circumstances. 

Searching for words to say in this speech, at 5am this morning, my mind went back to my AGM speech last year

When I stood before you here, twelve months ago, memories of the DHB MECA bargaining were very fresh in our minds. I spoke from this lectern about the difficult decisions we had faced, and the differences which had emerged between members, and between members and their representatives. At times, I said, there were signs of the “anger and division” our whakataukī warns about. 

Little did I know back then that the divisions would continue, in the way that they have. 

But I also spoke of what I called the “precious treasure” of democracy. 

“It’s this democracy” I said, “that has the power to forge unity, out of division. A democratic vote can resolve many individual differences into one collective union decision. As we continue the democratic process of overcoming differences, strength will grow; “he ora te whakapiri”.”

And through testing times over the last 12 months we have now relied upon this precious treasure to elect a new Board, decide on remits and confirm the presidency of NZNO. Shortly, we will vote also on the Board’s strategy and policy decisions from 2018/19 and on next year’s NZNO membership fee.

But as I also pointed out last year, healthy democracy is more than simply majority rule. 

Last month, a hard-hitting report was released on the 2017/18 DHB MECA bargaining and campaign. I believe it affirms the experiences and concerns of thousands of NZNO members. 

The report contains fifteen recommendations – number one being, “That the NZNO invest in an internal reconciliation and dialogue process”. That recommendation is limited to the “paid workforce”, which of the Board members would only include the Kaiwhakahaere and myself. An immediate priority for me will be speaking with the new Board about an internal reconciliation process for all eleven of us. 

For you AGM and Conference delegates, meanwhile, this gathering is opportunity to listen to each other, to debate and resolve those differences and to come together again around new shared perspectives. 

Our gathering also provides opportunities to reaffirm our Mission, under which NZNO embraces te Tiriti o Waitangi and works to improve the health status of all peoples of Aotearoa New Zealand. 

And tomorrow, Conference presentations will help us raise our sights and embrace the vision: ‘Leaving No One Behind – Health For All’.

Lastly our gathering will enable us to share food and celebrate the achievements of our nursing leaders who have given outstanding service.

I hope you will leave this event re-energised to embrace the challenges of the year ahead. I look forward to meeting and mixing with as many of you as possible over our two days together.

In conclusion, it occurs to me that NZNO turns 110 this year. Throughout this past 110 years, our organisation has undergone much dynamic change. We’ve transformed from a small group vehemently opposed to advocacy on pay, to over 50,000 members prepared to take to the streets to secure an environment where good health can thrive. 

The journey has not always been easy. The past year has been a tough one for our 110-year old organisation. 

But we have worked through our differences before. We have innovated, adapted, and made significant changes to be where we are today. 

The next chapter is ours to write together. 

Nō reira e te whānau, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.

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