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How Gayle Woodford's tragedy will protect thousands of Australian nurses.

A new law passed in South Australia’s parliament will mean no nurse will ever be forced to work alone in isolated areas of rural communities.

Gayle’s Law, proposed and passed in memory of South Australian nurse Gayle Woodford, means single nurse postings in rural areas will be abolished, with nurses now only ever going on call-outs in pairs.

The body of 56-year-old Woodford was found in a shallow grave near the town of Fregon in the APY Lands in March 2016 after she responded to a late-night call-out for assistance.

Her killer, 35-year-old Dudley Davey, pleaded guilty to the murder and rape of the mum-of-two and stealing her ambulance. He was sentenced to life in prison. At the time, the court heard Dudley likely tricked Woodford into helping him by falsely claiming his grandmother needed help.

In his sentencing, South Australian supreme court justice Ann Vanstone set a non-parole period of 32 years.

“This was a cold-blooded killing of a woman who had worked with skill and compassion in your community,” the judge told Davey.

Now, in a hugely “positive” move for nurses across South Australia, parliament has voted in favour of their safety, voting for a bill that will mean they will never again have to respond to a call-out alone.

According to Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation SA chief executive Adj Assoc Prof Elizabeth Dabars, the move is a welcome one, but likewise a move that came too little too late for Ms Woodford.

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Image: iStock
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"It's a very positive move by the state to ensure there wont be a single nurse posted out alone in remote areas," Dabars tells Mamamia.

"Nurses will be in pairs and there won't be a single person visiting a patient in isolated circumstances."

However, Dabars admits this law was a long time coming, with the safety of nurses working in rural areas under consistent threat by sole postings.

"We have been lobbying on this issue for years, well before this tragedy with Gayle.

"Regrettably, there have been incidents in the past - too many - of people being abused and fearful of their lives, and certainly there have been criminal acts committed in these areas.

"From our perceptive, enough is enough. It shouldn't have taken a death for this issue to be focused on. However, in saying that, it's a fitting tribute and legacy for Gayle Woodford and one her family can be very proud of."

Despite the fact Dabars says the state of South Australia has "absolutely done the right thing", it still remains a state law. And for that, they'll keep fighting.

"That said, this is a state law, so it only applies in South Australia. So, while it is a very welcome move, we also believe that nurses across Australia deserve this protection. We really need the Federal Government to act on this issue, so that nurses across Australia also receive the same protections.

"Everyone should feel safe at work. Their work environment is extremely isolated, and although we believe the communities they serve are extremely grateful, we have to acknowledge unsavory elements who are taking advantage of these circumstances."

Under the new legislation, companies can be fined if they force employees to attend call-outs alone.

Woodford's husband Keith Woodford and his family were at Parliament House when the legislation passed, telling reporters outside that his family were happy with the result.

“We are all extremely happy about the outcome and now we have to focus on getting the rest of the state and getting everyone on board."

LISTEN: Robin Bailey and Rebecca Sparrow discussing dealing with grief.

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