The truth behind the Nursing Code of Conduct lie

In BlogX, Health by Luke Pearson

Author: Luke Pearson

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“But first tonight, the contentious new code telling nurses to say ‘sorry for being white’ when treating their Indigenous patients..

That’s how Today Tonight Adelaide began last night.

It continued:

“Now, it’s the latest in a string of politically correct changes for the health industry, but this one has led to calls for the Nursing Board boss to resign.”

It was followed by a five minute story with the new code being condemned by someone you’ve probably never heard of, Graeme Haycroft, explaining that: “According to how the code is written, the white nurse would come in and say, ‘before I deal with you, I have to acknowledge to you that I have certain privileges that you don’t have” followed by Cory Bernardi calling it divisive.

It goes on in this vein for a full five minutes before it cuts back to the presenter, who finally says, “The Nursing and Midwifery Board has told us that the code was drafted in consultation with Aboriginal groups and has been taken out of context as it’s not a requirement for health workers to declare or apologise for white privilege”.

And just to reinforce that point, the entire premise for the segment was false. There is no requirement for nurses to apologise for being white, which would be very awkward for the more the more than 1500 Indigenous nurses across Australia, and the countless others who also aren’t white to begin with. But, even for the nurses who are – THERE IS NO REQUIREMENT FOR THEM TO APOLOGISE FOR BEING WHITE.

So, why on Earth would Today Tonight run such a story?

Why would they base a story off the demonstrably false allegations of this Graeme Haycroft person?

To answer that, it might useful to cut back to a 2005 Sydney Morning Herald story about Mr Haycroft:

“A member of the National Party and the H.R. Nicholls Society, he (Mr Haycroft) boasts that, because of a tussle he had with the Australian Workers Union 15 years ago, the union does not have a single member shearing sheep in south-western Queensland today.

Now he runs a labour hire firm with a thriving sideline in moving small-business employees off awards and collective agreements and onto the Federal Government’s preferred individual contracts, Australian Workplace Agreements.

…Mr Haycroft’s business stands out because he is targeting lower-skilled, lower-paid workers, often with poor English – the people unions say have much to fear from individual contracts.”

Cut back to 2018, and Graeme Haycroft now runs the Nurses Professional Association of Queensland, which promotes itself as an alternative to the Qld Nurses Union.

So, a man with a long history of fighting Unions, who ‘saved’ the mushroom farming business by showing businesses how to move “small-business employees off awards and collective agreements and onto the Federal Government’s preferred individual contracts, Australian Workplace Agreements.”

According to the 2005 article, “Mr Haycroft said workers had been more than happy to sign on, most with their penalty rates, holiday pay and other conditions being rolled into a flat rate.”

“However, [there is always a ‘however’], Mr Haycroft was stripped of his preferred provider status with the Office of the Employment Advocate on Thursday, after a Sydney picker, Carmen Walacz Vel Walewska, said she was sacked after she contacted the Australian Workers Union for advice on AWAs.”

With that track record, it’s hard to imagine why nurses would want to leave their current union in favour of his ‘professional association’.

It seems as though, once again, Indigenous people have become a political football and a convenient scapegoat for issues that have nothing to do with us.

Queensland has a long history of political success found through anti-Aboriginal sentiment, so what better way to undermine a Union and recruit new members to a professional association than to accuse the Union of ‘racism against white people’ and ‘political correctness gone made’ by spreading the blatantly false and misleading accusation that white nurses now have to apologise to Aboriginal people for being white?

And just like Dick Smith’s anti-immigration campaign, Blair Cottrell’s anti-African ‘community safety group’, and Prue McSween’s call for a new Stolen Generation, it seems Channel 7 is always more than happy to ignore the facts and sensationalise issues about race and racism.

There is always one more thing.

We, and others, will soon publish articles explaining what the Code of Conduct actually calls for, and explain why cultural competence and cultural safety are important (editor’s note: we did, here’s one of them), but I can’t help but be reminded of this quote from Toni Morrison:

“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”

So, instead of working on the very real business of ensuring best practice within the nursing industry, our Indigenous experts in this area will have to take a few days away from this important work to explain that no one is asking for white nurses to apologise for being white.

Just like we have to explain that not all Aboriginal parents abuse their children, or that we don’t want to steal white people’s backyards, or that we had (and have) science, or that Australia wasn’t Terra Nullius, or, as Malcolm Turnbull suggested last year, that acknowledging Indigenous history and addressing the issue of colonial statues and place names across Australia is not a “Stalinist exercise of trying to wipe out or obliterate or blank out parts of our history”.

So long as Australian media and politics finds value, profit and opportunity in promoting racism, there will always be one more thing.

So, I might as well clear up a few others while I’m here, and empty a few more buckets out of the endless ocean of racist misinformation.

Child abuse isn’t a ‘cultural’ thing.

Police are not scared to arrest Aboriginal people out of fear of being called racist.

We don’t get free houses.

Aboriginal people using white ochre on their faces in dance and ceremony is not the same thing as white people dressing up in blackface.

We don’t get free university.

The Voice to Parliament is not a third chamber of parliament.

We are not the problem.

Anything else?

We aren’t vampires?

We don’t shoot laser beams out of our eyes?

We aren’t secretly developing a perpetual motion machine that runs on white tears?

I’m sure I, and countless others, will undoubtedly need to keep adding to this list because, as Toni Morrison tells us, there will always be one more thing.

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