Indigenous | Nurses

Getting Māori nursing voices above ‘one world-view’ health system noise

The annual Indigenous Nurses Aotearoa Conference took place over the weekend, with the theme of ‘Maintaining our whakapapa’ the core focus of the hui.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku says since the Wai 2575 Health Services and Outcomes Kaupapa Inquiry in 2018, health reforms to improve Māori representation in the health system have come steadily.

At the conference, in tandem with presenting the 5Māori Nurse Awards, Nuku says nurses are on “target” to “building a unified front and therefore challenging the systems and processes”.

One highlight was having Diné (Navajo) and Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne) guest speaker Dr Lyla June Johnston, who brought an Indigenous perspective from North America and who also shared a similar journey.

“It requires us to build an army of indigenous first nations people to assure that we are all collectively on a journey but the stunning Lyla really fuelled the fires,” Nuku says.

“I think the Pae Ora Act actually put a stake in the ground, and it started to use key values and words like tino rangatiratanga and mana motuhake. What we have to ensure is that we hold the line so that its authenticity, as our tīpuna would describe it, is implemented and not a watered-down, diluted substitute for ‘this is what it now looks like.’

“Our role is to ensure we uphold the mana of such kupu as that. That’s really proving difficult.”

Being heard and seen are issues for Māori nurses navigating the health sector, especially as they progress in their careers compared to non-Māori.

Nuku says it’s been with Māori nurses since they had to unlearn mātauranga Māori and learn Western medicine. Now it’s about reclaiming their Māori identity.

“We’ve got a system that recognises one worldview.

“They don’t progress the same, they don’t have the same opportunities, don’t have the same professional development. So we’ve still got a long way to go to ensure nurses are nurses and that our nurses have a voice within a system that tends to always want to silence them.”

Public Interest Journalism