In the last few days the main stream media has picked up on a story that should have died a death months ago. The word going around, propagated by Grahame Haycroft of the Nurses Professional Union of Queensland, is that the new nurses and midwives' Codes of Practice require nurse and midwives to tell the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that we work with, that we are sorry that we are privileged because we are white.
There's so much wrong with this, I do not know where to start. Needless to say, this story is one of life's fabulous examples of fake news.
Firstly, before you jump up and down, and join in with Haycroft denouncing a politically correct world gone mad, take the time to actually read the Codes because clearly, most of the journalists reporting this story have not! No where in the Code does it say that we have to declare our white privilege – this is a lie! The Codes are easily available on the NMBA website where you can check this out yourself: http://www.nursingmidwiferyboard.gov.au/Codes-Guidelines-Statements/Professional-standards.aspx
What is cultural safety?
In the definition of cultural safety in the Codes, nurses and midwives are encouraged to “ undertake an ongoing process of self-reflection and cultural self-awareness”. The Code goes on to say “cultural safety provides a de-colonising model of practice based on dialogue, communication, power sharing and negotiation, and the acknowledgment of white privilege.” The NMBA have already discussed why this definition of cultural safety, and if you're not sure what cultural safety is, have a read of Janine Mohamed's explanation of why it is so important in healthcare. Ruth DeSouza has also written an excellent piece called The Five Myths of Cultural Safety.
The NMBA process of consultation and collaboration
Secondly, you need to be aware of how the Codes and other regulatory requirements are produced. The NMBA do not just wake up one morning and say “We're going to make you naughty nurses and midwives do this, this, and that....because we feel like it!” The Codes and similar regulatory documents go through an extensive process of research, collaboration, and industry and public consultation, for instance, the NMBA carried out a serious of road shows around the country which gave nurses and midwives an opportunity to give their feedback in a face-to-face environment.
Rather than being divisive as Cory Bernardi claims, nursing and midwifery peak bodies and organisations have been united in accepting the Codes as they are, because we were involved in the drafting and development of the Codes right from the start. As a member of the working group who consulted on the midwifery Code, I am extremely proud that it acknowledges racism as an unacceptable behavior. You can see all the consultations the NMBA held on the Codes, as well as the feedback submitted to the consultations on the NMBA website, and guess what...there's no submission from Haycroft, so I guess he was not that concerned about the content of the Codes that he felt driven to make a submission. You can also see various joint statements from the likes of the Australian College of Midwives and the National Rural Health Alliance that confirm that the professions value and support the new Codes.
Thirdly, you have to be aware of the politics around the dialogue generated by Haycroft. You do have to ask who he is, what his political agenda is, and what he aims to achieve by driving story. He is in competition with the Queensland Nurses Union, so he will see the publicity he is currently receiving as a nice piece of free marketing. Needless to say, he has been thoroughly discredited, and this story should be put to bed now!