Recently I blogged about the First World War, one of the formative events that helped shape New Zealand’s national identity. Of course another key moment in our history was the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, a defining event that will be remembered across the country tomorrow.
Each year at CM Health we celebrate the Treaty of Waitangi and what it means for our organisation. This year, our Maaori Health Unit Te Kaahui Ora has organised events throughout this week in response to staff members’ thirst for knowledge about the Treaty of Waitangi. Sessions were held yesterday at Manukau SuperClinic and I’d encourage staff at Middlemore to get involved in the sessions which will be held at Ko Awatea during the remainder of this week (excluding tomorrow).
As part of the preparations for this week of celebrations, Te Kaahui Ora also asked me to contribute a short statement about what the Treaty of Waitangi means to me. This has been used on the promotional posters, which you may have seen around the organisation. With Waitangi Day looming tomorrow, I’ve reflected more deeply on the spirit of the Treaty and how it influences our behaviour as an organisation.
For me, the Treaty of Waitangi emphasizes the value of a relationship and the importance of respect and diversity within that relationship. Be it with colleagues, patients or family/whaanau, we succeed in what we do by first establishing a meaningful relationship together. When each party has a relationship as equals, this leads to a much stronger pathway forward and makes the work that we do possible.
Respect and diversity are equally relevant to our organisation. You will have heard me talk about the Granny test, a way of determining our quality of care by asking whether we’d be happy for our own Granny to receive it. What lies at the heart of this test is respect. One of our clear roles and responsibilities is to treat people who come through our doors with the same respect that we would show a member of our family. And when this isn’t the case, we have the power and responsibility to act and improve. I think that this organisational ethos really encapsulates the spirit of respect put forward in the Treaty.
Operating in Counties Manukau, we are also constantly presented with opportunities to celebrate diversity. Over 100 languages are spoken in Manukau City and I suspect this figure wouldn’t be much different within our organisation. Someone once told me that “the tragedy of human existence is that we always treat difference as a deficit”. On the contrary, I think the Treaty encourages us to celebrate the value that lies in difference and the contribution it makes to the richness of a relationship and the potential for innovation. On a practical level, this means that we offer an Aspiring Leaders Programme catered towards Maaori, Pacific and Asian staff, and we have a Workforce Development pipeline which offers, amongst other things, health science academies in high schools to grow our future health professionals. This is all part of the way we celebrate difference and strive to develop a workforce that reflects the diversity of our community.
I’d like to finish by wishing you all a very happy Waitangi Day tomorrow and quoting a Maaori proverb: Naau te rourou, Naaku te rourou, Ka ora ai taatou katoa which means “your food basket and my food basket will feed the multitudes”. What this says to me is that if we respect each other and value everybody’s contribution, no matter how different or diverse, we will succeed in providing our community with the high quality of care that is the hallmark of our organisation.