‘This is for us and for our future’ — caregivers join nurses for day of action this Saturday

April 12, 2023

‘Exhausted’ health-care assistants (HCAs) are rallying alongside nurses for safer staffing and better pay and conditions at this Saturday’s NZNO day of action around Aotearoa.

Long-time Middlemore Hospital HCA, NZNO delegate Tamma Tangvellu, said stress levels were the highest she’d seen in 25 years in the job.


“All the members are very stressed out – it’s about safe staffing, we’re short of nurses every day,” Tangvellu told Kaitiaki Nursing New Zealand. This put pressure on HCAs, who were “exhausted” by the end of the day, she said.


‘Who would not want safe staffing, so we can provide safe care?’

“Always we’re missing out on the breaks, when we have huddle time, free time, they’re always talking about that – how to look after the family and do their work.”

Health-care assistant Tamma Tangvellu (second from left) with some of her Middlemore Hospital team.

Tangvellu said most just wanted a fully-staffed shift, “so you can go home and look after your family”.


The high costs of living added to the pressure faced by staff, who struggled to make ends meet. “We are happy to come to this rally for safe staffing and better pay.”

Many were leaving — for overseas or other jobs such as retail or a supermarket, where they believed pay and conditions would be better, she said.

“It’s really tough, they are really exhausted, they are not happy with it and people get sick really quickly because of the overwork.”

Hutt Valley aged care HCA, NZNO delegate Atele Pepa, who is speaking at Wellington’s rally, said the main challenges for aged residential care (ARC) was retaining nurses and HCAs, as well as recruiting more Māori and Pacific staff.

“We keep losing our nurses and then we keep losing our caregivers, so it’s a big struggle for us,” said Pepa, who called on health workers to turn out on Saturday.

Papakura district nurses are preparing to rise up — Maranga Mai! — on Saturday.

“This is for us and this is for our future! It’s very important, as we are desperate for nurses and caregivers. We really want the Government to sit down with unions and try sort this health system because it’s a bit of a mess.”

She was also keen to see more Māori and Pacific nurses coming into the workforce. “We need more Pacific and Māori, so please step up and come learn, train – come and make a difference.”

Pepa — who is Samoan — said she often needed to help colleagues with Samoan patients, and it made a big difference for residents if staff understood and reflected their diverse cultures.

“We do have some Māori patients have their own ways how they sleep and things like that – it’s just they might be simple things, but it’s a big thing for us to learn it.”


NZNO kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku said the day of action was a chance to mobilise communities to “drive change” — as had occurred after the recent devastating Cyclone Gabrielle and during COVID, when local iwi and Māori nurses led a testing and vaccination drive in Te Tai Tokerau in 2020.

Nuku — who is speaking in Auckland — said communities were key in pushing for better and more accessible health services.

She hoped primary health care staff in particular would turn out to give the day a “real community focus”.

“If nurses are speaking up about the shortages of staff and their ability to provide quality of care, surely the consumers have to be concerned.”

And if the public demanded better quality health services, “of course that means good resources for nurses”.

NZNO Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa president Anne Daniels and kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku.

NZNO president Anne Daniels — who is speaking in Wellington — said the day was a chance for members to “take control of their own future and their present.

“We need this Government and nurse employers to understand we actually have the power and the influence and the backing of the public – because health is everybody’s business. Whether you’re providing health care or receiving it, we’re all in it together,” she said.

“April 15 is about standing up and saying, ‘We not only want you to acknowledge we are beyond crisis — but we also have the solutions, we’ve got the fixes – we know what needs to happen to turn this debacle around’,” Daniels said.

“And who would not want safe staffing, so we can provide safe care?”

Shortland Street star Marianne Infante — aka Madonna Diaz — is also speaking at Auckland’s rally.

As a board member of the actors’ union Equity NZ, Infante said: “Let’s give our nurses the respect they are owed”.

Marianne Infante, aka Shortland Street’s head of nursing  Madonna Diaz, is MC at the Auckland rally.


NZNO chief executive Paul Goulter said it was the first time all 57,000 NZNO members had been called to stand united, regardless of where they work — Māori health providers, primary health, Plunket, hospice or Te Whatu Ora. But every nurse faced the same issues — unsafe staffing and a “fundamental undervaluing of the work they do”.

Being unable to provide adequate care was “soul-destroying” for nurses, he said.

The rallies’ purpose was to call on politicians in an election year to make the health and nursing crisis a top priority, Goulter said.

Sign up on Facebook or find your nearest rally here or below.

NZNO aged care HCAs in Auckland get ready to make a stand.
Day of action rallies: locations and details
Kaitāia 11am-1pm Gather at the old Warehouse carpark, 11 Matthews Avenue, Kaitāia, for the rally with speeches, petition-signing and then whānau time.
Rawene 11am-1pm Gather at the boat ramp carpark, 5 Clendon Esplanade, Rawene, for the rally with speeches, petition-signing and then whānau time.
Kerikeri 11am-1pm Gather outside the ANZ Bank, corner of Kerikeri Road and Fairway Drive, rally with speeches, gather signatures on petition, then whānau time.
Whangārei 11am-1pm Gather at Pūtahi Park, Town Basin (next to the Canopy Bridge). Rally with speeches then whānau time with activities (BYO picnic lunch).
Dargaville 11am-1pm Gather at Countdown/The Warehouse Carpark, Victoria Street, Dargaville, then speeches followed by fun and whānau activities.
Auckland 11am-2pm Gather at Myers Park (371-381 Upper Queen Street entrance) from 10.30am; march from Myers Park to Auckland Domain. Rally with speeches then whānau time with kai at Auckland Domain.
Hamilton 11am-1pm Gather at Hamilton Gardens, Cobham Drive (Rose Garden side near the Playgound and Rotunda by gate 2 entrance and carpark). BYO picnic and join together for speeches, activities, kai and music.
Tauranga 11am-1pm Gather at NZNO Car Park, Tauranga. Hikoi from NZNO office, 141 Cameron Road, Tauranga, to The Strand and back, stopping at Hairy Maclary Park and Red Square. Return to NZNO for speeches, kai and refreshments. FREE parking available at 94 Durham Street carpark building. Please do NOT park at NZNO.
Whakatāne 11am-1pm Gather at Wharaurangi, the Strand, for rally and speeches.
Gisborne 11am-2pm Gather at Heipipi Park from 10am; march from Heipipi Park to Kelvin Park at 11am; rally with speeches then whānau time.
Palmerston North 11am-1pm Picnic in The Square. Bring your own food and join in the activities.
Masterton 11am-1pm Meet at Town Hall Square. Bring a picnic, your family and a chair.
Wellington 11am-1pm Gather at Civic Square, march to Parliament, then speeches followed by BYO picnic, music and face painting.
Nelson 11am-1pm Gather at Tahunanui Beach, behind the Nightingale Memorial Library, then speeches followed by fun and whānau activities.
Blenheim 11am-1pm Gather in Seymour Square, 37 Seymour St.
Kaikoura 11am-1pm Gather at the Esplanade opposite Dolphin Encounter.
Christchurch 11am-1pm Gather at Bridge of Remembrance for march to Victoria Square, then speeches at Victoria Square followed by fun and whānau activities.
Ashburton 11am-1pm Meet at the BBQ area in Ashburton Domain for the rally and a free sausage sizzle.
Dunedin 11am-1pm Gather at First Church for march to the Octagon, then speeches followed by fun and whānau activities.
Invercargill 11am-12pm Gather at the Gala Street Reserve.