7 June 2021
Tune into ABC-TV’s Australian Story at 7.30 tonight for a report on the inquest into the 2016 murder of Outback nurse Gayle Woodford.
View the Australian Story report anytime on ABC iview
Following her murder, the ANMF (SA Branch) campaigned vigorously with Ms Woodford’s family for three years for new legislation to protect nurses working in remote areas.
Ms Woodford was lured from her property in the small South Australian Outback community of Fregon by convicted sex offender Dudley Davey, who had claimed that his grandmother needed medical assistance. He was later sentenced to life imprisonment for her murder, with a non-parole period of 32 years.
Following robust campaigning from the ANMF, our members and Ms Woodford’s family, the State Parliament passed Gayle’s Law in November 2019, which legislated that no remote area health professional attend after-hours emergency callouts alone.
In April, the Deputy State Coroner recommended that this be extended to nurses being accompanied at all times.
His inquest into Ms Woodford’s death also recommended serious repeat offenders be banned from South Australia’s AYP Lands and that police should be stationed in the Far North town of Fregon.
Deputy State Coroner Anthony Schapel said it was “perverse” that such a lawless town had no permanent police presence.
Speaking after the April inquest findings, ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM said: “I really do want to say at the outset that we absolutely owe a debt of gratitude to the Woodford family who’ve been absolutely amazing during this terrible time and advocating for the nursing professions in terms of protection and security.
“These recommendations are useful and they are important and we’re very pleased to see not only that it seems the coroner’s findings support the law (Gayle’s Law) but also support an expansion of it (that nurses are accompanied at any time),’’ Ms Dabars said.
Last month, a review tabled in State Parliament found that Gayle’s Law had significantly improved the safety of health practitioners working in remote communities since it was implemented in 2019.
However, the review, led by Flinders University Professor Robyn Aitken, with the participation of the ANMF (SA Branch), found that the safety of Outback nurses is still at risk because health service providers have not properly written Gayle’s Law into their policies. It found only four of 10 health service providers involved had specified in their policies that nurses cannot be directed or required to attend a call-out alone.
Ms Dabars said there “simply must” be the political will to implement the coroner’s recommendations and also to provide safe systems of work.
“What we want to see is employers actually being made to comply with their requirements and their requirements absolutely are to provide their employees with safe systems of work and a safe work environment,’’ she said.
“We have been strong advocates, alongside the Woodford family, for Gayle’s Law. It is fantastic news that it has clearly improved the safety of nurses working in remote areas. We now want to see it implemented by all health service providers.’’