‘They do what you wish; they like you; you the good nurse!’
Colonialism and Native Health nursing in New Zealand, 1900–40
in Colonial caring

Shortly after New Zealand’s Public Health Department was established in 1900, plans were initiated to launch a district nursing service for Maori, largely based on the Queen’s Institute nursing scheme in Britain. The Department regarded the proposal as a cheaper option than existing scheme which subsidised medical practitioners working in districts populated by Maori people. Initially the plan was to train Maori women as ‘Native Health Nurses’ who ‘by precept and example [would] help their countrymen to a good and healthy way of living’. This chapter discusses why it failed and why most the nurses working amongst Maori were European by origin, taking their Western nurse training into their new roles. The chapter focuses on their accounts, often written during epidemics, demonstrating how, to be effective, they had to grasp quickly the importance of compromise and the need to negotiate and interact with local communities. This is not a celebratory account of white nurses and colonial peoples, portraying nurses as fighting the ignorance and superstition of the native race, but does argue that historians should move beyond the victimisation model of history writing based on ‘tool of empire’ discourses to consider afresh the interactions between nurses and their patients.

Colonial caring

A history of colonial and post-colonial nursing

Editors: Helen Sweet and Sue Hawkins


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