Thursday, July 30, 2020

Institutional overkill? The case of Deborah Hugill

I wonder if anyone else felt uneasy reading the story on Stuff today about a Taranaki nurse, Deborah Hugill, who was deregistered by the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal for making racist comments.

Hugill was held to be guilty of professional misconduct after a social media post – prompted by a news report about the absence of Maori voices from a mental health and addictions inquiry – in which she described Maori nurses as lazy, cunning and underhanded [sic]. She also said they got a lot of unfair handouts and spent too much time eating and going to meetings.

It was a statement that even staunch upholders of the right to free speech would have trouble defending, and Hugill asked for trouble by posting it on a New Zealand Nurses Organisation’s Facebook page.  Yet Stuff’s account of the tribunal hearing left the discomforting impression that the proceedings had the hallmarks of a show trial.   

The tribunal chair, Maria Dew QC, rebuked Hugill for her “failure to show a sustained and genuine understanding or remorse for her highly offensive and racist comments”. That suggests she was punished not just for her offence but for not being sufficiently contrite.

Dew also acknowledged “mana whenua” – by which she apparently meant local Maori, though that’s not the Maori Dictionary’s definition of the term – for their “very special contribution” to the hearing, saying it was important for the tribunal to be part of restoring mana for Maori. “Ms Hugill’s conduct has damaged that mana.”

Really? I would have thought the purpose of the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal was to ensure professional standards are upheld.  Restoring mana for Maori suggests a broader agenda that goes beyond the tribunal’s warrant. This is fashionable ideological rhetoric, not the dispassionate language expected from a quasi-judicial body. Was this a case of the tribunal buying into the culture of grievance and victimhood?

Perhaps it was Hugill’s misfortune to be subjected to disciplinary proceedings at a time when confected fury over supposed white supremacy, fanned by the Black Lives Matter movement, has fuelled an appetite for retribution against anyone bold or foolish enough (and this case involved a bit of both) to expose themselves to charges of racism.

Cherene Neilson-Hornblow, who laid the complaint against Hugill, told the tribunal that Hugill had “trampled on the heads of our people”. Later, when the hearing was over, she said: “I’m just overwhelmed, I’m so pleased. It’s thousands of years of injustices, it’s tears of joy.” Hyperbole, much? Remember, we’re not talking about the righting of grievous historic wrongs here. We’re talking about a lone woman who expressed racially offensive (but, we must presume, sincerely held) opinions and has paid what some would regard as a disproportionate penalty.

As well as having her registration cancelled, Hugill was formally censured and ordered to pay 15 per cent of the costs of the hearing: $8362.95. She was barred from practising for two years and before working as a nurse again must complete what Stuff called a cultural confidence course (I think they mean cultural competence). Used punitively, as appears to be the case here, this is a more benign form of the re-education camps favoured by Pol Pot and the current Chinese communist regime: a means of moral purification by which ideological transgressors are persuaded to see the error of their ways and given a chance to purge themselves of their sins.

Stuff also reported that after the tribunal had come to its decision, proceedings were closed with a karakia. Well, of course.



Owen said...

My impression was her main sin was working while temporarily deregistered.

oneblokesview said...

You say
It was a statement that even staunch upholders of the right to free speech would have trouble defending

I am a staunch believer in free speech.
ie either you believe in freedom of speech or you dont.
There is no but...
ie but you cant criticise Maori.

I have no problem defending her right to freedom of speech.
So she voiced her opinion?!!

The woke Nurse community(as you rightfully pointed out) over egged it.....
and why the hell was the Nurses Organisation getting involved over her post anyway????
Was she not doing her job properly?
Surely if it was racist rants then it surely was a Race Relations Problem.
The Nurses could simply could have deleted her post on their facebook page...

Kiwis are getting way to precious in my view(yep, am old pale male, which by default makes me a racist, bah humbug)

Trev1 said...

This does indeed seem to have been a political "trial" which resulted in a qualified nurse being deprived of her livelihood. There are echoes here of the Soviet Union, it's fortunate the gulag hasn't yet been built. Yes her remarks were unwise: they seemed to express frustration as much as anything. This ruling must be challenged in a proper court of law, it offends natural justice.

Doug Longmire said...

This is a very extreme punishment for one person simply speaking her mind. Where is the possible justification for charging her with $8000+ expenses?
Yes - right to tell her off / censure her for inappropriate comments. But !! Destroying her livelihood ?? Really, is that justice? Is it even legal for the HPDC to do this?
This kind of excessive pc, woke attitude is becoming very much to the fore in health professions.

Doug Longmire said...

And the "thousands of years of injustices.." ? What thousands of years? Sounds like playing the victim to me.

Max Ritchie said...

It’s not at all clear that her comments were not accurate. If her experience of her colleagues was as she expressed her Facebook post then it is indeed Stalinist. I’ve had a lot of experience working with staff of Maori descent. All was good. However, not everyone has had that. One hears of people taking excessive time off and the other things this ex nurse describes. Did the kangaroo court give her the opportunity to make her case? It seems not.

Andy Espersen said...

"Lazy, cunning, getting unfair hand-outs, spending too much time eating and going to meetings". Well, I am sure some Maori mental health nurses are lazy and cunning - as are some white, yellow or black specimen of the sort. Getting unfair hand-outs, spending too much eating and going to meetings?? Critical observations like that are specific and objective. That can be proved or disproved - i.e., do Maori nurses really differ from other nurses in that respect?

The question remains, are these remarks really proper grounds for dismissal? It does not seem so to me. But they were broadcast, published in an underhand way in the media – and that is certainly a nasty way of doing it. Behaving like that would not win you any friends among your work mates – because it would be obvious which Maori she was referring to. Her objections to those individuals should have been raised in a confidential letter to the person in over-all charge - together with proper proofs of her allegations. As it is, it remains just one insensitive nurse's private opinions that really count for nothing in the big scheme of things.

The big question to my mind is whether such remarks on their own would become “hate-speech”, and consequently illegal and criminal, if Andrew Little’s odious, legislative proposals become law. Perish the thought.

N.B. – I spent almost 40 years as a mental health nurse and remember numerous, lovely Maori colleagues. In those days they were certainly no different from the rest of us.

Rick said...

So Deborah Kathryn Hugill is on the scrap heap now for giving Wrong Think on Facebook.

Meanwhile, the man caught masturbating in front of children at a public swimming pool gets off scot free and with name suppression. Does that make sense to you?


Odysseus said...

Requiring someone to pay for their punishment was a feature of Nazi "justice". When a loved one was murdered by the regime, their relatives would be billed for the executioner's fee. Another of the many repugnant features of this case.

Chris Morris said...

There could be a lot deeper background to this that any of the media stories cover. The Nurses Organisation is in turmoil, with the President leaving and a lot of members transferring to another union. The cause was a cabal of Maori nurses in the executive wanting to change the whole emphasis of nurses' training. They have been pushing out anyone not in full sympathy with their views. The Tribunal case was the public face of it.

Unknown said...

Notice how health boards are being "gifted" Maori names when it is really part of a decolonisation agenda.

The project of dismantling colonialism also requires that a new vocabulary be deployed. As Said (1993:273) comments: 'One of the first tasks of the culture of resistance was to reclaim, rename, and reinhabit the land'. This concern with language and naming signals an important element in the process of decolonisation and in constructing the markers of a post-colonialism.
[ ]
As During (1993:457) argues with regard to the use of Aotearoa, the name 'recalls the massacres, the deaths by introduced diseases, the destruction of a culture and a society which the name New Zealand silences'.

Paul Spoonley - Recalling Aotearoa

Both multiculturalism and biculturalism are shaped by shifting and sometimes competing discourses around civic values and national identity, in the context of broader state economic and regulatory policy. The values of egalitarianism, social justice, and state support for communities are historically key parts of New Zealand’s national identity dating back to the 1930s. Despite the devaluing of these elements of national discourse by neoliberal governments since the mid-1980s, social justice is still invoked to justify affirmative action and service delivery to and equal rights for minorities. This is one of several paradoxes around multiculturalism and neoliberalism: the liberalization and acceleration of immigration to New Zealand was part of a raft of modernizing policies starting in the 1980s, and the cultural diversity this policy shift has produced has been appropriated for the construction of a national identity or “brand” that can be marketed abroad. At the same time however, polyethnic cultural diversity has exacerbated public anxieties about withdrawal of governmental support to communities and rapid changes in traditional (white) New Zealand cultural values. The relationship between the neoliberal state and indigenous biculturalism is similarly complex. The revival of Maori political claims, particularly to ownership of resources and culture, has accelerated in response to increased cultural diversity, as Maori have sought to distinguish their status from that of polyethnic groups. At the same time, in order to reinforce its legitimacy, the state invokes traditional Maori culture not only to promote trade and tourism, but also to provide a language of belonging and community membership that is otherwise absent from neoliberal discourse.
Multiculturalism, Biculturalism, and National Identity in Aotearoa/New Zealand Katherine Smits

Now check out Te Maire Tau
BTW there is no evidence of a large Maori presence around the Chch CBD. There has been extensive archeological work.

Doug Longmire said...

I have thought about this level of punishment overnight.
I find their level of punitive action far too severe, and way beyond what any reasonable professional body should have the power to inflict.
This nurse posted an inappropriate and offensive comment. That's all. Just a few words typed onto a computer screen.
Offensive? Yes.
But threatening? No. Dangerous? No.
For these few words which some people objected to, she has had her career destroyed, has been fined $8000+, and has been condemned publicly.

I ask - is this Justice ?

Unknown said...

Peaceful Maaori Mental Health Nurse posting..
The freedom of speech is imperative to us all regardless of culture or belief as we all strive to acheive the best outcomes for those tangata.whaiora/patients we provide care I personally also know that at times comments are made sometimes out of frustration or a challenging shift.."were human"after all...
This is a very sad day for our colleague who has been stood down from her profession for her strong comments' depicted in a highly seen media report...
It is definitely a sad day for my colleague that this matter couldnt have been resolved with retrospect to "Whakawhanaungatanga" (coming together to discuss the matter with good supports in place, going forward)
Definitely not the consequences that occurred
Arohamai e te whaea
So sorry for the injustice that has been bestowed to you and your whanau...

Andy Espersen said...

I find all these comments interesting and revealing, particularly Chris Morris's. My guess is that he is an insider. There is more to this story than we know. No wonder Karl felt "uneasy". What she did and the way she did it wasn't particularly nice - but her punishment was way over the top. A simple apology should have been sufficient.

Should Deborah Hugill appeal? Can she appeal the decision? Would that cost her money? Should somebody establish a fund to support her in an appeal. The more I look at this, the more I think I would be quite willing to donate.

Trev1 said...

Yes I would contribute to a fund to right this dreadful wrong too. How does it work?

Rick said...

@Andy Espersen

You don't need too much insider information to understand the NZNO Civil War. The MSN don't talk about it but the ex-President resigned with an explosion of verbiage.

Links here