The Expanding Story    |  Press Clippings   

I have thought long and hard about writing this particular section, as it tells the frank story of a serious episode of mental illness I suffered in 2001-2002. I have no doubt that this history has contributed considerably toward the refusal of appropriate authorities to take my expressed and evidenced concerns about blatant discrimination and breaches of statutory law seriously.

Will history now repeat itself? Will all that I write on this website now become invalid, the ravings of an embittered mental health Nurse who just will not accept the he stuffed up? Strangely enough I don’t feel too concerned if that is the case… ….perhaps it’s more important that ‘mad people’ are seen to have a voice.

Much of my writing here was done whilst I was very ill, and I can see my mood at the time reflected in my prose, I’ve changed little of it….. I hope it doesn’t detract from the truth of my experience.


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The Expanding Story

And so I was labelled "Culturally Unsafe" at the very nice Polytechnic, sacked from my job, professionally and publicly vilified , turned away and disowned by the equally very nice New Zealand Nurses Association, discounted and ignored by the very nice Nursing Council of New Zealand, when for ages I had been writing to them saying, Hey, come on ! Some of the poor residents at Tokanui are gettin’ knocked about, because your most fundamental standards are being deliberately breached .I need your support here!

,Well, all that went on for over 4 yrs. ..

Suffice it to say that I experienced the behaviour of a large number of Nursing Tutors toward me at that time, as malevolent to the point of wickedness.
Whilst Nursing academia hailed the introduction of Cultural Safety into the Nursing Curriculum, indulging itself in a seemingly never-ending orgy of sycophantic self-congratulation, I became the target of a group of embittered mediocre, calumnious women, united in strength and ignorance, as they sought to ‘empower’ themselves. I became a threat to their personal and professional aspirations because I voiced my deep concerns about rapidly deteriorating Standards of Mental Health Nursing education in the Nursing Curriculum of Waikato Polytechnic, a trend mirrored to a greater or lesser degree in all Polytechnics as the tourbillion of Cultural Safety swamped Nursing Curricula throughout the country.

Eventually and inevitably, my concerns manifested in an incident of sickening brutality witnessed by one of my students. .(Kai Tiaki Nursing NZ July 95.)

At that time I chose to do all I could to uphold the standards of a profession very dear to me. That decision has led me on a harrowing journey.

Small wonder that in 1996 a Parliamentary Select Committee of Enquiry into cultural safety, concluded that the Nursing Depts of 10 out of 15 Polytechnics evidenced extreme and radical practices that had no place in nurse education.

Now wrap your neurones round this for a minute….. Has there ever been a Western democracy in which the content of a Nursing Curriculum has caused such public concern as to warrant a Parliamentary Enquiry?What on earth was going on? It wasn’t so much the Curriculum content, for as we know Cultural Safety has become an acknowledged part of nursing theory both nationally and internationally. It has been embraced by tangata whenua, and quite rightly is acknowledged as Irahapeti Ramsden’s personal gift to Maoridom and NZ.No, there was nothing wrong with the theory base. It was the conduct of a number of tutors who taught it that disgraced my profession

I eventually ended up in the Employment Court, was reinstated to my former position, and ‘compensated’ with less than 1yrs salary.

Despite reinstatement, my career as a Nursing Tutor was effectively finished after that. I had been a good Tutor, had enjoyed teaching and still do, but its music nowadays not mental health nursing.

I learnt then, that in NZ Nursing in the early 90s , political expediency took precedence over moral and ethical concerns.

I was sacked following publication of an article I wrote for Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand (How I became Culturally Unsafe July 95).

Despite the support of front-line nurses from all over the country who responded to my article, and despite having been a member of NZNO for many years, I was not represented by my professional Nursing Organization.

I was badly knocked about by the whole experience. I had really believed in the integrity of Nursing Council, particularly when it came to the most basic of standards.
(ie. People who need care in hospital should not be beaten and brutalized by the Nurses.)

Fair go .this sort of thing is just a few steps removed from the intrinsically evil acts of violence that are happening in the world around us at this moment, right?.There are few professions as philosophically beneficent as Nursing. The concept of Care is fundamental still , despite all the huge changes in health care delivery. The essence of Care as a philosophy in Nursing is still its’ unconditional nature’.Not all aspects of nursing care can, or should be quantified and priced, don’t you agree? I remain distrustful of the existing structure of Nursing Council, not the individuals, but the actual structure.My personal experience twelve years ago ,when I attempted to uphold Nursing Council’s own Standards of Mental health Nursing Education, (Now I note referred to as Guidelines), led me to believe that they were so motivated by political agendas of race and gender, that they had lost sight of the true nature of our profession and the importance of maintaining the most basic of educational and practice standards. It is my hope that such misguided ‘senses of duty’ to the Nursing Profession are no longer prevalent in our hierarchy.

So my wife and I took stock.

The Waikato held both bitter and sweet memories for us. It was my wife’s birthplace and she had very strong family attachments around Gordonton and Hukanui. I had a strong legacy of 20yrs nursing practice in and around Hamilton. I had never lived in one place for that amount of time before, and I valued family attachments and dear friends. This was now balanced by the bitter memories of recent years. I was deeply scarred by the abuse I endured at the Waikato Polytechnic, and I knew that I was unable to be positive and constructive in my work if I stayed in the Waikato.

Together we decided that it was best to move away. We had to uproot our children from family, friends, and school. We had to plan and find new careers. When we first settled we had built a home together on family land. As a result of the expenses and ensuing financial hardship of the previous 4yrs., we had to give up our home. We left behind all our social and community networks and moved to Tauranga determined to rebuild our lives.

Such was the price paid by the whanau of a whistleblower.

Initially all went to plan. We both found jobs at Tauranga Hospital. I worked in Wd 9 part time and began to build up a business offering Mental Health Education and Clinical Supervision. It went well, and I soon formed a business partnership with a colleague. Within 2yrs we had built Partnership in Practice into a viable concern, holding substantive contracts with Netcorp, Richmond Fellowship, and a number of other service groups.

In 2001 I suffered a large heart attack and underwent emergency surgery, receiving quintruple coronary artery grafts.( Kai Tiaki Nursing Z 2001)

Kai Tiaki - Healing the Heart Article - Part 1
Part 2

I returned to work within months but my recovery was slow, and I suffered a number of post-op complications. Life became increasingly difficult for my wife who had to care for me as well as the kids a lot of the time.

Besides there was another issue arising in our erstwhile rock solid relationship. I became aware that my wife was gay when she wasn’t (aware that is…..some men just know these things.)

She was unable to talk to me about it then, and still is….

One day ,with little warning or explanation, she suddenly left to discover and explore the new sexual identity rapidly dawning in her consciousness.

It was October 2001, a frantic time work-wise, being the end of the academic year. I muddled through bewildered, struggling to cope with teaching commitments, business, and the kids. Three months later I was deeply depressed. I was not eating, had no motivation, was neglecting myself, and had to be kicked out of bed and fed each morning. My children then 5yr and 8yrs, were caring for me.

On Christmas Day my children were whisked away by my ex partner,and from that moment I was never to live with or have custody of my children. Within months she set up home with her new partner, also a Nurse, and her two daughters. Alone in the family home, my ever increasing suicidal ruminations became firm suicidal intent.

I put a lot of planning into it, even did a full rehearsal.. Carbon monoxide poisoning was my chosen exit mode, backed- up with a huge cocktail of various medications, washed down with a bottle of rum. When the time came I looked out through the car windscreen upon a bright cloudless night sky. It affected me and I began to sob …..I became angry at myself. Where was my dignity? (or does dignity only exist when there is someone to see it?)

I fought to regain my composure. I’ll meet my end with a clear eye and a clear mind…..I’d decided that…..so hand already on the ignition key, I dropped 2 valium tabs………few minutes to regain my calm, and if not a clear mind, at least a nice dreamy benzodiazepine cushion to float away on,,,,, I had been so resolved to go out absolutely straight I remember laughing at my own weakness then….. balanced on the cusp between life and death, I remember chuckling…..


Many times since I have reflected on that moment.

During the absurd last year of my employment as a Nursing Tutor, I had been assigned by the HOD to a windowless broom-cupboard a floor beneath the Nursing Dept.
In enforced isolation, and deprived of peer group contact, I had written my lecture notes, interviewed my students, and managed as best I could. When the isolation got to me, I would close my office door, pull my guitar from it’s case, and sing my head off. At other times I found solace by wandering over to the cafeteria, and joining the tradesmen from other Depts .Here I would take comfort in the warm rich north- country accents of my home, and drink in the sharpness and subtleties of their humour.

With a strong partner, neat kids, good mates, and a passion for music, I was able to sustain myself and survive without ‘cracking’ in that ultra hostile environment.

But in the months of my deep depression, mostly alone and removed from my kids, I even lost my passion for music, and my instruments gathered dust.

So how come humour , albeit momentarily, could so completely penetrate my despair?

I had witnessed similar phenomena in the earlier days of the Psych institutions, when murderous combatants, bruised and bleeding, would suddenly dissolve into laughter at a well-timed quip or funny remark. How powerful and underutilized an interpersonal skill humour is!

As a profession in which the principle tool is the therapeutic use of self , Nursing should be exploring the use of humour, ,experimenting, developing, researching it. Instead the haridens of correctness stalk the corridors of Nursing,, all too ready to condemn humour as ‘inappropriate’, or unprofessional. What a sad lot we are, sadder still that we have acquiesced to these morons!

Meanwhile, back at the suicide attempt I was starting to feel the effects of the valium…. wait till a little more peaceful I decided….. then start the engine and finish poisoning myself.

I awoke cold and shivering in an icy Rotorua frost..

It was 5-30 am.

A Psychiatric Nurse tapped me on the shoulder then and told me that I was very sick and needed help. I did not question him. I opened the car windows and with rising panic drove frantically back into town,the bent end of the vaccum cleaner hose peering above the roof of the car. I submarinated my way through the early morning traffic to my GPs surgery and parked outside with the vacuum cleaner hose still dangling. I waited until he arrived at 8-00am and within the hour I was in front of a Psychiatrist at Tauranga Hospital.

He told me that I was not to leave the hospital until I had arranged 24 hr care for myself. If I did not comply I would be committed under the Compulsory Assessment and Treatment Act, confined to The Psychiatric Unit and forced to stay in hospital. I had my first ECT treatment that morning, completing a course of six treatments over the next 2 weeks. My eldest daughter and son arrived and cared for me, taking me back to Wellington. With on-going treatment and the love and support of my family I slowly and steadily improved.

Almost a year later I returned to work, gaining employment with McKesson NZ as a Community Care Co-ordinator. I worked with a fine clinical team establishing a telephonic assessment and intervention service as part of a Ministry of health pilot programme. I enjoyed the work and soon settled, fascinated by the technology and advanced communications software. I don’t doubt that it was my return to work that completely effected my recovery. I worked at McKesson achieving an exemplary work record until the incident that led to my dismissal in early 2004, and subsequent De Registration in 2005.

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1992 - 1995 :

“The Cultural Safety Debates”


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Dominion post 10/06/06

Dominion post 10/06/06

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