King’s Birthday and Coronation Honours 2023: Waimamaku rural nurse Venus Cherrington awarded QSM

Waimamaku community stalwart Venus Cherrington has been awarded a Queen’s Service Medal (QSM) in the King’s Birthday and Coronation Honours list for her service to health and the community. But, she says, there’s an entire team and community behind her who deserve credit for the honour too.

In the tiny Northland community of Waimamaku, getting urgent medical attention in an emergency isn’t that easy, but the community are saving lives by working together to upskill themselves in areas such as CPR and first aid.

Many in the community are now adept in or learning the life-saving skills, thanks largely to Venus Cherrington (Ngāti Wharara, Ngāti Korokoro), a rural nurse who has served the Hokianga Northland community for more than 30 years.

It’s this dedication that has seen Cherrington awarded a Queen’s Service Medal (QSM)* in the King’s Birthday and Coronation Honours list for service to health and the community.

But in typical manner for a selfless honours recipient, she credits the work of her “team” – including her husband, son-in-law and nephew – as a key factor in her work, saying if it wasn’t for the team behind her, she wouldn’t be able to do much.


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Cherrington runs courses to train the community in how to perform CPR, how to use the local defibrillators and first aid courses, and her home is always open for those that need help. As well, she offers varied assistance including fundraising, helping at local marae, providing food at events, offering homecare assistance, and providing care and comfort for those at the end of life and support for whānau.

As there are no after hours services available at the Rāwene Hospital (30km away), Cherrington offers her time to people in her area to call her in an emergency or to provide extra support until emergency services arrive.

She sourced 19 AED defibrillators situated around Hokianga in registered locations and organised trainers to deliver first aid and safety lessons.

Since “retiring” in 2016 after 30 years as a nurse, she organises first aid updates in her local area. With 74 percent of Hokianga being Māori, she has encouraged Māori nurses to complete their education to become leaders, and continues to support nurses to enrol and register. She helped fundraise with Te lwi o Te Roroa, a local store, and the community to provide groceries to families during the Covid-19 pandemic, and prepared meals for distribution along with her husband. She was appointed as an Honorary Member of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation in 2014 and received the Te Tai Tōkerau Primary Heath Organisation’s ACE Award in 2015.


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Cherrington said she loves what she does and feels it’s important to have the community trained up in case of emergencies.

“After hours, if there’s an issue, the nearest hospital is at Kawakawa [95km, or about 80 minutes drive away], and while we have our local fire volunteers as the first response, the more local people we have trained up, the more lives we can save – and our community has been saving lives because of our working together,” she said.

Cherrington gave a recent example of a youngster who went into anaphylactic shock after an allergic reaction.

“They [parents] rang 111, who told them to stop where they were until help arrived, but they knew that could take some time. They were only about five minutes away from my place. And because of our community knowledge and training they knew that there’d be an EpiPen [a hypodermic device that administers a dose of epinephrine, used for the emergency treatment of an acute allergic reaction] at the Four Square. So they put the call in and the store got the EpiPen to them and that is what saved that boy’s life.”

“That’s what communities should be all about and it’s just wonderful that we can help them look after their own emergency health needs like that.”

* The Queen’s Service Order and its accompanying medal, the Queen’s Service Medal, is still named after the late Queen Elizabeth II this year, but will change name to the King’s Service Order and King’s Service Medal to acknowledge the new monarch.

The first honours using the new titles are likely to be announced as part of the King’s Birthday Honours List 2024.

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