The nursing leader who has twice taken Māori health and Māori nurse pay parity to the United Nations was honoured last night with the New Zealand Nurses Organisation’s highest award.

Kerri Nuku, the kaiwhakahaere and co-leader of NZNO, was awarded the NZNO Award of Honour last night at the organisation’s annual conference awards dinner.

The biennial award is presented to members who make a positive impact on nursing, contribute to innovation and increase the status of the profession.

Grant Brookes, NZNO president, said when presenting the award that Nuku’s work on an international level for indigenous nurses in particular – and her submissions to parliament on a number of issues including smokefree policies – had really made an impact.

He said also since 2013 – when the constitutional change to the kaiwhakahaere role came into affect – Nuku had developed the new co-leadership role. “She has taken NZNO on a journey towards a greater understanding of the bicultural partnership, the importance of tikanga and preserving the mana of all members.” And last month she lead a hikoi in Auckland calling for pay equity for Māori nurses in iwi health provider settings.

In April this year Nuku presented for the second time to the UN’s Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues in New York calling for a Māori nursing workforce strategy, saying without it the aim to attract and retain thousands more Māori nurses into nursing to meet population need would never be realised. She also called for a funding commitment to pay parity so nurses working with Māori and iwi health providers could be paid the same rate as nurses working for other health providers.

Nuku said at the time that some nurses working in DHBs and other primary healthcare services had pay rates up to 20 per cent higher than those paid to nurses working for Māori/iwi providers. She told the UN Forum the Government was “clearly not fulfilling its obligations under Article 20, Convention 169 of the International Labour Organisation agreement to do everything possible to prevent discrimination between workers, and achieve equal remuneration for work of equal value”.

Brookes said Nuku’s dedication to NZNO regionally, nationally and internationally, and in particular to the needs and aspiration of the Māori workforce, had earned her the admiration and respect of members throughout the organisation. “I warmly congratulate her on the award of honour.”

Nuku, whose iwi are Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāi Tai, has been full-time kaiwhakahaere and co-leader of NZNO since 2013.

The Hawke’s Bay-trained RN and midwife has worked as antenatal clinical team leader, a clinical nurse specialist for Hawke’s Bay District Health Board’s sexual health services, an auditor, and a research organisation director.


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