Legislative Council: Wednesday, May 18, 2022


Gayle's Law

The Hon. S.G. WADE (15:16): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in relation to Gayle's Law.

Leave granted.

The Hon. S.G. WADE: At the last election, SA Labor released an Aboriginal affairs policy called Tarrkarri-Ana. Amongst other commitments, a commitment was made in the policy to provide $5.2 million over four years to implement Gayle's Law and maintain clinical health services on the APY lands. I ask the minister:

1. Has he engaged other community-controlled Aboriginal health services that are implementing Gayle's Law as to any resource issues they have in implementing Gayle's Law? In particular, in the remote areas I would refer to the Oak Valley Health Service, the Pika Wiya Health Service, the Tullawon Health Service and the Umoona Health Service.

2. Can the minister assure the council that all Aboriginal-controlled health services will be able to access state government funding to implement Gayle's Law on a comparable and equitable basis?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Attorney-General, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:18): I thank the honourable member for his question. Of course, this resides as a responsibility for the Minister for Health in relation to remote Aboriginal health services, but I will say one thing: I can remember being, I think it was August last year, on the APY lands and meeting in Umuwa with the then opposition leader, the member for Croydon, Peter Malinauskas, the then shadow education minister, the member for Wright, Blair Boyer, and the then shadow health minister, the member for Kaurna, Chris Picton, where we had a meeting with Nganampa Health.

This was after Nganampa Health had written a number of times to the former Liberal government. I believe that correspondence had been addressed to the former Liberal government, both to the Attorney-General in relation to findings from coronial inquests and a number of times to the former health minister in relation to the implementation of Gayle's Law.

We saw a tragedy in the town of Fregon that we have spoken about in here before, when Gayle Woodford was tragically murdered. Gayle was, of course, a remote nurse. We had a lot of debate in this chamber and the other place, and I think very sensibly did the right thing and passed legislation in honour of Gayle Woodford that required more than just one nurse to see patients in many of these remote communities. It was absolutely the right thing to do.

What Nganampa Health had written to the former government over an extended period of time about was the fact that, in implementing what this parliament had passed, there would be costs associated with it. When you have more than one person required for a callout, there will be extra labour costs associated with enforcing that.

What the Nganampa Health service had written to the former government about, and I believe it went both to the Attorney-General and the former health minister, is that without extra funding Nganampa Health couldn’t stay open. It's not that they couldn't just implement the requirements of Gayle's Law, but they had written and put the former government on notice that the health service itself would close.

Do you know what the former government did, the former health minister? Nothing. They did nothing. The former health minister had been asked about this a number of times and: it's all a federal health issue with Yadu Health in Ceduna with their building. The former health minister said, 'No, it's Aboriginal health. It's completely a federal issue. Nothing to do with me.' We don't see it that way. We see the health care of Aboriginal people in South Australia as not just a complete and utter federal issue: we see we have some responsibility for that.

When Nganampa Health told the former leader of the opposition, the member for Croydon, Peter Malinauskas, that they would shut down the services to Aboriginal people in the APY lands if they couldn't get extra funding, the commonwealth did, I believe, a review where they sent people in for one day to look at everything across the APY lands to see what efficiencies could be done, if extra funding was needed.

That wasn't what we decided to do—wash our hands of it and do nothing, as the former government did—we actually made a commitment. We made a commitment that if we passed laws that required these requirements for an extra person when nurses do callouts, then I think we have some responsibility, having passed that relative legislation, unlike the former government, to do something about it.