The Indigenous Nurses Aotearoa Conference begins at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland tomorrow. NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku says the conference will be unique in that it is Māori-run and about maintaining the authenticity and integrity of Tikanga throughout. But she says most of all it will be empowering.
"The system in general has beaten down our confidence so we want the conference to be about "fire in the belly" and being proud to be Māori, advocating for the health of the people and communities who most need it."
The theme of the conference is ‘Raising an Army of Māori Nurses’, which harks back to words spoken by Māori politician Apirana Ngata early in the 20th Century, who called for just such an army.
"Back in the 1900s, with the onslaught of epidemics killing Māori, they raised and army of Māori nurses to go out there and work in the community. We need to be doing that again now because our people are dying at the same rates from non-communicable diseases such as heart disease," Ms Nuku said.
"The system simply isn’t working for our people and we need to look at alternative approaches - and that’s about raising the Māori nursing workforce army."
Ms Nuku says a major theme of the conference will be the Waitangi Tribunal’s recommendation for a complete redesign of New Zealand’s primary health system to better meet the needs of Māori - a result of the Wai 2575 inquiry to which Te Rūnanga was a party.
"A particular issue for us is the 25 per cent pay disparity for nurses working in Māori organisations compared to those working in district health boards," Ms Nuku said.
Today (Thursday 8 March) Te Rūnanga members and some conference attendees will visit Ihumātao to both show support and help where they can.
"We want to show Te Rūnanga’s solidarity with the peaceful protest of our brothers and sisters because our connection to the whenua is intrinsic to our health and wellbeing," Ms Nuku said.
"But we also want to go there as health professionals to support and provide health care assistance. There are nurses actively working at Ihumātao and we want to provide some support to them as they need it."
The Indigenous Nurses Aotearoa Conference will take place at the Pullman Hotel, Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland), 9-10 August.