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Wellington Nurses Celebrate Proud History

16 February 2005

Wellington Nurses Celebrate Proud History

The Wellington branch of the New Zealand nurses organisation is 100 years old this month and local nurses will mark the event with a celebration this evening.

The Wellington Private Nurses' Association was established by pioneering district nurse Annie Holgate in 1905. One of their major concerns was the protection of the public from unsafe practitioners. The effectiveness of their early lobbying is evident in the 1906 Private Hospitals Act which included provision for the supervision of the standard of nursing in private hospitals.

The setting up of an Auckland branch followed in 1906, with Otago and Canterbury branches following in 1907 and 1908. The national organisation, forerunner of today's NZNO, was established in 1909. The organisation's journal, Kai Tiaki, celebrates 100 years of publication in 2008. There are plans for a suitably spectacular celebration of the centennial of the national organisation in 2009. This year, the focus is on the achievements of the pioneering Wellington nurses who established the first branch 100 years ago.

"Nursing in Wellington, and across New Zealand has a long and proud history, which will be celebrated tonight,' NZNO Professional Services Manager, Joy Bickley-Asher concluded.

Joy said; Wellington was the centre of political activity and the Wellington branch assumed a leadership role when the national body was set up in 1909. For thirty years the Wellington branch held on to its position of leadership until other regions became fully established and played a more substantial role at a national level.

Joy Bickley Asher said although the role and working conditions of nurses in New Zealand had changed, nurses were the backbone of the health system one hundred years ago and remained so today.

"At the beginning members were urged to have nothing to do with trade unionism but the history of the organisation shows that it has always played a major role in seeking better conditions for nurses, from lobbying for an eight hour day to seeking a sound superannuation scheme for retired nurses.

The organisation, from the very first, understood the significance of political activity and lobbied government and health sector agencies very effectively about professional issues, like standards of practice and concerns about the effects of such things as poverty of the health status of New Zealanders.

Joy Bickley Asher said the Wellington Association was established to promote the nursing profession, raise the standard of education and improve the welfare of members. 100 years later, NZNO has nearly 40,000 members and is the leading nursing organisation in New Zealand.


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