How to promote a healthy debate

Goulburn War Memorial, a 20-metre tower of stone and concrete on Rocky Hill, is topped with a powerful lighthouse beacon that casts a moving beam over the town at night.

The local branch of the NSWNMA chose the tower as the symbol of its “Shine a Light on Health” campaign.

The tower featured on leaflets advertising the Goulburn Local Health forum and served as a backdrop for a photo of local nurses in period uniforms dating back to World War II, published prominently in the Goulburn Post.

Branch members hit on the idea when thinking up new ways to promote the campaign for quality health care with improved ratios at Peer Group C hospitals.

“Some nurses have hung onto old uniforms so we got them out to get publicity for the campaign,” secretary of the NSWNMA’s Goulburn branch, Jane Cotter said.

Jane said the branch was always looking for photo opportunities to promote the campaign and elections were an ideal time to put pressure on politicians.

“We got good press coverage and radio coverage in the lead-up to the forum and after.”

The branch has been working with other local unions to gauge public attitudes to a range of issues including health, transport and education.

Jane said opinion surveys were a useful way of enlisting public support.

“We have been doing surveys at weekend markets over the past 18 months. We find that members of the public like to be asked to sign something or fill out something.”

Social media and support

She said support from other unions covering teachers, police, corrective services staff, transport workers and other industries was a big factor in the success of the health forum.

“Members of the other unions worked hard to help us get a big turnout on the night,” she said. “They used their contacts to distribute our flyers and put our material on their Facebook pages. We have a Goulburn Nurses Facebook page and so does the Goulburn District Unions group.

“Pushing the campaign out on social media really worked. A lot of people and organisations put it on their Facebook page and we also did a lot of letterbox dropping.”

The branch hired a flashing electronic sign to promote the forum and got advice from Goulburn Council on where to put it so it would not pose a distraction to drivers.

“We are very lucky that the council has always been on our side,” Jane said. The Liberal-controlled council earlier voted unanimously to support ratios for Goulburn Base Hospital.

“Saint Saviours Anglican cathedral allowed us to erect the sign on their grounds and the Catholic churches handed out our flyers at every mass.”

The branch wrote to principals and P&C groups at all local schools and pre-schools, asking them to put flyers on their notice boards and invite parents to come. Branch members made contact with service groups such as Rotary, CWA and Soroptomist as well as support groups in fields such as palliative care, cancer, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

Jane also attended local political party meetings to promote the forum and hand out flyers.

The branch mailed flyers to local health professionals and non-government organisations such as Mission Australia, St Vincent de Paul and Baptist Community Services.

“The Goulburn community are very proud of their hospital and don’t like to see it run down and not staffed properly,” she said. “Most people were happy to put our flyers in shop windows.

“If one of the branch members had her hair done she would get her hairdresser to put it up, for example.”