It has been an honour to lead this magnificent union
Brett Holmes has announced his retirement, having served the Association for 32 years, twenty of those as General Secretary.
I depart from this magnificent union with immense pride in what we have achieved and who we are and do so with great confidence about the Association’s future.
When I became leader of the NSWNMA it had 48,000 members and now it has almost 75,000.
My predecessors passed on to us an excellent union that was professional, focused and effective.
In the subsequent 20 years, together we have built this union into an even greater force that cannot be ignored, which always strives to act for the betterment of the nursing and midwifery professions, and resolutely defends our public and private health systems and aged care.
There are many significant achievements to look back on.
When Judith Kiejda and I became leaders of this union, we understood that nurses and midwives’ crippling workloads were a major obstacle to delivering the quality of care patients deserved.
Our first steps in what has turned out to be a long journey was to get the very concept of “reasonable workloads” accepted by health management.
This morphed into our first major campaign for ratios and a significant initial victory: in 2011 NSW became one of three places in the world to introduce nurse-to-patient ratios delivered through Nursing Hours Per Patient Day (NHPPD).
We have continued this fight to this day and the experiences of the last few months has convinced me that we have the strength and fortitude to win a more sturdy framework for staffing with shift-by-shift ratios that will deliver the care that patients deserve.
In aged care our members have been exemplary in a very difficult environment, standing up for the rights of the elderly.
It gives me a lot of satisfaction to see their heroic activism translate into legislation from the incoming Albanese government to mandate Registered Nurses 24/7 and a pledge to legislate minimum minutes of care time per resident which delivers staffing ratios in private aged care facilities and to significantly improve wages.
I believe there is an important lesson to be learnt from these campaigns. Like it or not nurses and midwives have to engage in the political process. Governments hold the keys to unlock the resources needed for the health and aged care sectors to function and flourish.
I am also very proud of how the Association has participated in broader union campaigns, nationally and internationally. Our contribution to the historic Your Rights At Work campaign was widely lauded and respected by our colleagues in other unions, the ACTU and Unions NSW.
But it is not just what we have done but who we are that I am proud of: a union with an indomitable spirit and collective strength of character that are intrinsic qualities of our professions.
What stands out is the passion and engagement of our members. Ten years ago, during that first ratios campaign over 6000 nurses and midwives gathered at Sydney Olympic Park to send a message to the then ALP government that we were not for turning over ratios. It was raucous and energetic. It exuded commitment and determination. It was a wonderful expression of collective power.
Fast forward a decade to this year and two momentous strikes – this time against a Liberal-National government. These actions showcased the same fighting qualities, creativity and strength from new generations of nurses and midwives.
I leave knowing the union is in capable hands with Shaye Candish as the new General Secretary and Michael Whaites as Assistant General Secretary. Together they make an extremely capable and enthusiastic team. They are dedicated to nursing and midwifery, are passionate about the union and are seasoned campaigners. They have my complete support and endorsement.
Finally, I would like to thank Judith Kiejda, our former Assistant General Secretary for her loyalty and talented leadership over 19 years, the selfless and dedicated members of council and the Association’s hard working staff.
I can’t thank every one individually that has been part of this wonderful journey with me – there are more than 75,000 of you! More to the point, I can’t thank all of you enough.
I can’t thank all of you enough.