Nurses should not shy away from being strong advocates and lobbying for political change, the new Shadow Assistant Minister for Aged Care, Ged Kearney, told delegates at the 2019 ANMF (Vic Branch) Annual Delegates Conference.
Ms Kearney, who is a former state president of the ANMF in Victoria and a former ANMF federal secretary, said her career as a nurse taught her to listen carefully to others and to back herself when she saw issues in the workplace that needed changing.
‘Being a nurse is political,’ Ms Kearney said. ‘Nursing is about advocacy and making the change for the better. So is politics, so is being a politician.’
‘Nurses advocate for their patients every single day. We advocate for the health system, for our hospitals, for our communities. We make changes that change people’s lives and save people’s lives.’
‘The skills I learnt in nursing and in the union movement were invaluable,’ Ms Kearney said. ‘Nursing taught me to be political, and it taught me that if you don’t speak up things don’t change.’
Ms Kearney, who was ACTU federal president for almost eight years before being elected to the seat of Batman (now renamed Cooper) in a 2018 by-election, noted she was one of only two nurses in the Parliament (the other is Helen Haines, the independent member for Indi), and politics needed more nurses.
‘In my view, a good politician is one who has had a lot of experience outside the political bubble,’ Ms Kearney said. ‘I need nurses to stand up. People believe you, they know you, they trust you. Politics needs nurses – run for politics.’
Note: all of Ms Kearney’s advice for nurses applies equally to midwives.