However, its efforts were being “distracted” by the need to defend what it had, kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku told the NZNO AGM. Predominantly female, nurses knew what it was like not to be listened to or have others define their needs. “We know what it’s like to have our mana diminished by a sexist system that devalues us and what we do.”
The same thing was happening at Toputanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa, with the foundation of its bicultural relationship being “sharply attacked,” she said. “Our elders fought to have Te Rūnanga established and pushed even harder to ensure that we have a governance structure where equity shares power.”
Te Rūnanga had been accused of being “hungry for power and resources”, she said, which was “just untrue”.
There were no Māori-specific roles or funding for Māori-centred projects. “There is no real action plan to tackle the 25 per cent pay gap between Māori and iwi providers and DHBs that is informed by the Rūnanga”.
“We do not have unfettered powers or funds,” she said. “I am personally saddened by the repeated personal attacks on Māori and the fabric of our bicultural relationship. The insinuations and accusations are designed to take away our voice and our presence and replace it with fear, disappointment, pain, loss and hate.”
Te Tiriti expert and constitutional lawyer Moana Jackson has said Te Tiriti-compliant organisations required good faith, compromise and a reasonable balancing of interests. “But we know at the end of the day that equity does not look like anyone other than us to define what we need to do and how we need to operate.”
This did not mean Te Rūnanga wanted to impose its needs onto the rest of NZNO, but it was currently facing a threat to autonomy over its own matters.
There were many shared aspirations on the pathway forward – raising a healthy society, advancing the profession of nursing and ensuring “us and our colleagues get the pay and conditions we deserve”.
To ensure change, Māori must be persistent to bring about structural and legislative change and to ensure a presence and voice. Te Rūnanga members had provided evidence for the Kaupapa Māori services inquiry, Wai 2575, and Te Rūnanga was involved with the legal challenge against Oranga Tamariki and the mana wahine Waitangi Tribunal inquiry “to name a few”.
Nuku shared an excerpt from American poet and activist Maya Angelou’s poem, Still I Rise:
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.