It’s time to jump in the pool

December 1, 2020

NZNO needs its members to be involved in its campaigns. Sitting passively on the side-lines, waiting for things to happen, is not what democracy is about.

Stephanie Thomas
Stephanie Thomas
We stand on the brink of a new year – a good time to assess the challenges ahead. Not only are there huge issues we need to address globally – climate change for instance – but there are issues much closer to home that affect us in our working lives.

How much value is placed on our work, for example, in the profession that most of you reading this article have chosen as your work/life path?


Here in Aotearoa New Zealand we’ve just been through an amazing election process for a new government. We now have one with a clear majority. I believe we have that because people mobilised themselves. We got involved in campaigns, whether that was about COVID-19, housing, health, marijuana or euthanasia. Then we voted.

For lasting change to occur, we need to be engaged, and involved in local and national issues. We need to step up and many of us do, which is fantastic! Ka pai and kia kaha to you.

It takes more than just ticking a box sometimes to show your support for change to occur. Sometimes it is best to go to a meeting and to speak up. Sometimes that might mean stepping out of our comfort zones and holding a picket sign outside the office of your employer or going on a hikoi.


Our ancestors, many of our mothers, aunts, sisters, grandmothers and great grandmothers, stood up and got involved to ensure women in generations to come had the right to vote. Thank goodness for their foresight, courage and commitment to women’s suffrage.

Life is busy. We have commitments, we have whānau, all priorities for us. So often we women put everything else ahead of ourselves but, as our forebears did, we need to make our mahi a priority, for the sake of our daughters’ futures. As nurses we also tend to put others before ourselves. Prioritise yourself and your colleagues too.

Leadership seen in deeds

The important values of societies and cultures are captured in proverbs or sayings, such as “Actions speak louder than words” or “Mā te mahi e kitea ai he rangatira, ehara mā te kōrero” (leadership is seen in deeds, not just in words).

Nobody joins an organisation, no matter what kind, to be a passive participant. Nothing happens that way. Alternatively, things might happen and we end up being unhappy about the result and expressing our disappointment. The question is, what did we do to bring that change about?

Nobody joins their local swimming club without jumping in the pool. What would be the point of standing on the pool edge watching? It’s the same with being part of NZNO. Not only are we a professional body, we are a trade union and in 2021, we need our members to get involved and not sit on the side-lines, waiting for things to happen to us.

Nobody joins an organisation, no matter what kind, to be a passive participant. Nothing happens that way.

There is a lot more to democracy than casting a vote once every three years. Political action in parliament responds to public opinion. It’s the job of politicians to represent our views. Taking action helps guide the Government as it develops policies and laws that affect us. If we don’t give direction, we can’t complain if things don’t go the way we hoped.

As the Māori proverb suggests, we should not just sit back and wait for our political leaders to tell us what to do. Taking action in our workplaces is an important way to maintain the integrity of the whole democratic and political process. By taking action in our own lives, at home and at work and in our communities, we become leaders and role models ourselves, on behalf of our whānau, our workmates, and future generations.

Our ancestors who fought for women’s suffrage stepped up, against the huge social pressures of their times, when a woman’s place was in the home, and politics was left to men. They stepped right outside their comfort zone. Through their courage and strength, they created great opportunities for us. We owe it to them not to waste their legacy.


One of the hardest things about taking action is planning and strategising. But that is where we develop a shared vision for the future and create possibilities. The exchange of ideas is a creative, imaginative process, and as you put forward your own ideas, you get to know others and form strong friendships – one of the benefits of being in a union.

There are so many campaigns that need you right now – In Safe Hands, the primary health-care multi-employer collective agreement (MECA), the care capacity demand management programme, the district health board MECA. We need members to get involved and support these campaigns. Come, jump in the pool, the water is warm!