By Matai O'Connor
The urgency for more funding for Māori health providers, pay parity for Māori nurses and continuing to break down barriers for whānau, hapū and iwi were some of the main messages from this year's Indigenous Nurses Aotearoa conference.
New Zealand Nurses Organisation kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku welcomed the more than 200 nurses from around Aotearoa who convened at Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington over the weekend.
Nuku spoke about the need to urgently address the pay inequity between nurses working for Māori health providers and nurses who work for district health boards (DHBs).
The WAI 2575 Health Services and Outcomes claims hearings that started in 2018, heard how kaupapa Māori health nurses earn on average 25 percent less than those working for DHBs.
Last week, an independently commissioned report showed that $1 billion in extra investment into Māori health providers a year, would save the country $5b annually in health-related costs.
The research was commissioned by Tribunal claimants which include leaders of Māori health providers including the National Hauora Coalition and other Māori organisations.
The report shows the government has failed to fund Māori healthcare adequately.
"The issue we would like to see is an immediate extra funding go to those nurses who are working in that sector to immediately give them equity with their peers," Nuku said.
"The purpose of this hui is about listening to some inspirational speakers, putting the fire in the belly and see how we can all be better advocates, for our whānau, hapū and iwi."
Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare vowed to Māori who work in health that he is doing everything he can to address the significant health inequities faced by Māori.
He told the crowd he is committed to implementing the Māori Health Authority.
"The Pākehā mainstream system needs to change its way to deliver equity for our people," Henare said.
Henare said once the policy has gone through the first stages of the parliamentary system, he and Health Minister Andrew Little will travel across New Zealand to hear what people want from the Māori Health Authority.
Members of the Rongoā Collective of the ART iwi confederation Sharlene Maoate-Davis, Awhina Mitchell, Hemaima Wiremu and Pania Solomon spoke on the second day.
Maoate-Davis said self care is a huge part of the nursing sector and using whakapapa can help ground and sustain them.
"The impact of racism and systemic abuse we work in ... I wonder how strong your resolve, wairua and mauri are to these things," she said.
"We have been lucky enough to be left by our tūpuna, kawa and tikanga, codes of living and ways of being, that bring us back to ourselves.
"They help us to stay in connection to our places and people, if we are practicing them while at home or away from home, they are our protective indicators for best practice.
"In our spiritual sovereignty we have never lost our ability to a voice for our place, our people or our ways," she said.
South Auckland nurse practitioner Dhyanne Hohepa came to the conference to get inspiration and motivation.
"I see a lot of hate and racism on social media, it's mamae to see it and hear it. For myself, I gain inspiration and a good feeling of belonging when I come here. It reminds me I am not alone in the workforce and we can stand up against social injustice and racism," she said.
More tāne in nursing
Ripeka Evans said she was there to help lay down a plan to build an army of thousands of Māori nurses and a part of that army - is getting more Māori men into the sector.
Evans said it is amazing to see more tāne Māori working as nurses.
"They bring with them skills and values like manaakitanga and wairuatanga which are hallmarks of Māori nursing healthcare," she said.
Nursing student Philippe Numa Haldezos, a tāne Māori aiming to be a nurse, was at the conference.
He was inspired by his whānau and other men in the nursing sector to follow this pathway and be the first in his family to pursue tertiary study.
"It was nice to see Māori men in power talking about how they are aiming to make a difference. I'm really excited about new health equity legalisation and frameworks in the works and helping out wherever I can to help achieve equity," Haldezos said.
Haldezos hopes more people take up tertiary study to help their whānau and he hopes to become an example for others.