NZNO leader again puts Māori nurse case to UN

28 April 2017

In New York today NZNO kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku repeated her call to a United Nations forum for a Māori nursing workforce strategy to help meet Māori health needs.

Nuku spoke during the 16th session of the UN's Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) currently underway in New York 

She repeated the message she made when presenting a case in May last year to the UNPFII, that without a Māori nursing workforce strategy, 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 get paid the same rate as nurses working for other health providers.

Nuku said she could not see evidence yet of a "decent commitment" to attracting more Māori into nursing in Aotearoa New Zealand – or pay parity. 

"It is clear that matching the demographics of the workforce to population, ethnic makeup improves health outcomes. Culturally appropriate health services are economically sensible and the right thing to do for our indigenous people.

“Māori nurses offer a whānau and holistic approach to health and wellbeing and this is proving effective for Māori, particularly in deprived areas.

“Some nurses working in DHBs and other primary health care services have pay rates up to 20 per cent higher than those paid to nurses working for Maori/iwi providers.

“Clearly, the Government is 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,” she said.

Nuku also said that Māori nurses currently make up seven per cent of the nursing workforce yet the Māori population was around 15 per cent.

“I am calling again for a Māori nursing workforce strategy so that the eight per cent shortfall can be recruited to the New Zealand nursing workforce.

“We will need over 10,000 more Māori nurses by 2028 to match population need. Where is the vision and drive to achieve that? I believe the under-representation of Māori in the health workforce is structural discrimination and NZNO has lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission about this,” said Nuku. 

The theme for the 16th UNPFII was looking at the measures taken to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in the nearly 10 years since its adoption. You can read about the relationship between UNDRIP and the Treaty of Waitangi on the Human Rights Commission website. 

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