Black Ferns take time out from celebrations to tautoko nurses

December 23, 2022

World Cup Rugby-winners, the Black Ferns, took time out from their public celebrations to warmly champion the cause of nurses in Wellington this month.

Black Ferns Kennedy Simon & Sarah Hirini.

Wellington nurse Naomi Waipouri said a handful of nurses from Hutt, Wellington and Wakefield hospitals turned up to greet Black Ferns at their Parliamentary lawn celebration on December 13.

Nurses quietly held their signs about pay rates and safe staffing, while congratulating the Ferns, she said.

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“It was their event that we kind of crashed, but we were respectful about it,” Waipouri said. “Instead of being loud and waving our picket signs around, we went up to the front and just laid them by our legs.

“And they were like ‘oh, the nurses are here!’,” she said.

Naomi Waipouri (in yellow) with fellow nurses at Parliament.
Black Fern Ariana Bayler

“It was good to hear some of their kōrero, their talk, because it was all about gender equity. The Black Ferns said ‘thank you for all that you’ve done, women-power, we’ve got to be strong as women’.”

Waipouri said the group originally planned to focus on pay equity for all nurses, wherever they worked, “but as people made their own boards they just brought whatever their own concern was at the time – staffing, pay parity. It was just a whole lot of everything”.

The Black Ferns made history when they won the Women’s Rugby World Cup in November, beating England 34-31.

Black Ferns Liana Mikaele-Tu’u and Amy Rule.

Waipouri said history had shown that wāhine “can and will achieve” through collective strength and action — from the 1893 suffrage movement in Aotearoa, to the 1880s “match girls” strikes in London — where a mainly female and young workforce went on strike over low pay and dangerous conditions.

“More recently, the Black Ferns are shining a light on the recognition of women in sport,” Waipouri said.

‘It was good to hear some of their kōrero, their talk, because it was all about gender equity.’

“As a female-dominated profession, we nurses must continue to look at such a past to encourage, empower and inform us of our future — to, ultimately, close the gender disparity and achieve equity.”

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After the Black Ferns victory, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had announced the December 13 celebration on Parliament’s lawn, in conjunction with Wellington City Council and NZ Rugby, encouraging people to “come along and make it a special day”.