NZNO kaiwhakahaere wins global human rights award

September 1, 2021

Kerri Nuku wins award while Indigenous Nurses Aotearoa Conference inspires Māori–healthcare professionals.

NZNO kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku has won a global nursing award recognising commitment to fostering human rights.


The Human Rights and Nursing Award was presented online to two nurses worldwide from an international conference about ethics in care during COVID-19, hosted by the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom (UK).

Nuku was recognised for her contribution to human rights and equitable care for indigenous nurses and the wider Māori community, through her roles as advocate, activist and researcher.

She said she merely stood on the shoulders of many great warriors “who forged a pathway that gives many like me the courage and resilience to go further”.

“Our kuia and kaumātua, whānau, iwi katoa, stand in solidarity to fight for a future where our mokopuna are free to aspire to be whatever and proudly stand as Māori.”

Nurses saw first-hand the ongoing injustices of colonisation through over-representation in negative health statistics, and structural discrimination and institutional racism, she said.

Māori nurses also experienced that discrimination and injustice and have survived “by living in two worlds”.

“We have learned to live in contradiction while we work for social justice and the health and wellbeing of Māori.”

The other winner was UK-based Suman Shrestha who helped develop health and social care both in Nepal and the UK.

Ann Gallagher, head of nursing at the University of Exeter, said both winners were role models for student nurses and caregivers globally and “show us what can be achieved when nurses are committed to human rights”.

NZNO’s Hawke’s Bay/Te Matau a Māui Regional Council nominated Nuku for the award, run by the Nursing Ethics journal.

Conference success

News of the award came after the Indigenous Nurses Aotearoa Conference 2021 ran in August, narrowly beating a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown.

Nuku said every year the conference aimed to make its audience feel inspired and part of a whānau.

“From the minute you walk in there, there is a warmth, an aroha.”

The conference ran for the first time at Te Papa, in Wellington, drawing nurses, health-care providers and students from around Aotearoa.

“Every one of the speakers I approached, not one of them said ‘no’. That’s often how our conference is,” she said.

Every speaker built on the preceding speaker’s kōrero, Nuku said, leaving the audience inspired and waiting to hear what would come next.

This year, speakers included Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare, Ripeka Evans, Hinemotu Douglas, and NZNO Māori policy analyst Leanne Manson.

It included a speech by Māori leader, scholar, and activist Moana Jackson.

He tied his deeply personal kōrero to the theme of this year’s conference – heed the call of the maunga.

The event aimed to pick people that would tell a story about something to which they were connected, or passionate about, Nuku said.

“You get more from stories from the heart.”

More coverage: Indigenous Nurses Conference