Dying lecturer: ‘Te Wānanga o Aotearoa has not acted in good faith’



Ruth Nuku Stanshall was a dedicated social work lecturer at Te Whare Wananga o Aotearoa.


By Aroha Awarau of Whakaata Maori

Terminal cancer patient Ruth Nuku Stanshall (Ngati Maru and Ngaruahine) has worked for 18 years as a dedicated social work lecturer at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.

She always knew that if she became terminally ill, she would be eligible to make a death and disability insurance claim, which is written into her contract.

But, when she was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer last year and was told she wasn’t expected to live past April, her claim was declined.

Nuku Stanshall, 67, has been left to not only fight for her life but for an insurance payout that she says that she’s eligible to receive.

She says her former employers have not been acting in good faith.

“I feel deeply let down because of all the years and service I’ve put into the organisation, the students, everything that I did at work. It feels like it hasn’t been reciprocated at all,” she says.

Collective agreement clause

Nuku-Stanshall says she signed a contract under the collective agreement, which says that permanent employees are eligible to make a claim worth $60,000 under the death insurance policy if they are under 70.

The individual contract has a separate terminal illness policy, under which permanent employees can be eligible to make a claim if they are under 65.

Nuku-Stanshall was on compassionate leave and says she was pressured by the human resources department at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa to formally resign if she wanted to receive her insurance payout.

She says she gave her notice earlier this year and then made her insurance claim, which was declined.

“I gave them a leave date. Once they got that, they said; ‘Sorry Whaea, we cannot pay you out because it’s not for those over 65.’ And so, it all plummeted.”

“Under the collective agreement, it says that we are able to get paid out up to 70, and so they’re trying to make those changes now. They haven’t been forthcoming in terms of what questions I’m asking. I’ve been getting passed to this person, to that person, with no clarity.”

No money, just bills

The impact has been huge for Nuku-Stanshall. She was forced to move from Tauranga to Palmerston North to be by her children because she could no longer afford to live independently and was reliant on her insurance to buy her more time.

“It became chaotic because I had absolutely no money, but I had bills that I still had to pay. I’m in a mess now. It took away my individuality, it took away my independence, it took away everything that I was and that I built myself up to be.”

Te Ao Tapatahi contacted Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. In a written response, a spokesperson said the organisation did not have the ability to influence any insurance outcomes.

Sent aroha

The spokesperson declined to give us the name of the insurance company that underwrites its policy or the name of the organisation or individual who could accept insurance claims.

“We understand this is a difficult time for Ruth and we acknowledge and send aroha to her through this difficult time,” the spokesperson said.

The wananga’s legal team has advised not to provide any further comment, the spokesperson said.

Received no claim

We contacted the insurance company that Ruth Nuku-Stanshall believes underwrites the policy for Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, Resolution Life Australasia.

A spokesperson says the organisation appears to have a group scheme that would have been established and owned by Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and any claims needed to be made by the employer who owns the policy.

Resolution Life Australasia has confirmed it has not received a claim from Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.

It said: “We can confirm that Resolution Life Australasia has not received a claim and therefore has not assessed or declined any claim in respect of her. This means we are also not aware of, or able to comment further, on Nuku-Stanshall’s concerns.”

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