In 1983 with a move towards nurse education in Colleges of Advance Education and later Universities, a group of nurses came together to ensure the professional interest and standards of nurses supporting people with intellectual disability would be maintained. They formed a Working Party, at the suggestion of Meryl Caldwell-Smith AM, Chief Nursing Officer for the New South Wales Department of Health. Their task was to produce ‘exit competencies’ showcasing the skills, knowledge and expertise that nurses graduating from colleges and universities would need in order to support people with an intellectual disability. The Working Party was made up of Dr Chris Atkins PhD, Diana Dalley, Ross Fear, Elisabeth van Leeuwen, Bob Weaver OAM and Carol Welsh.
‘Meryl was looking out for us, when she suggested we needed to do something about nurse education. It took a year of work to produce the core elements/’exit competencies’ document, to ensure that the clinical skills of nurses would be maintained. (Bob Weaver OAM, 2014. Dawn to Dusk: Celebrating 200 Years of Service at Rydalmere).
From this undertaking, the Working Party saw a need for a professional organisation in order to have a greater advocacy voice, to represent and maintain the professional interest skills and knowledge of nurses caring for and supporting people with intellectual disability.
In 1989 the Professional Association of Nurses in Developmental Disability Australia (PANDDA) was established, led by nurses originally from Rydalmere, Marsden Centre, Grosvenor and Riverside along with staff from other residential centres, and university academics. Many nurses originally from Rydalmere and Marsden were foundation members; some like Norma Cloonan, Catharine Hulst, Penny Kearney, Russell Jones, Chris Atkins and Bob Weaver remain active committee members today. One of the early committee members Chris Laurie came up with the original name for PANDDA, The Professional Association for Nurses working in Developmental Disability Areas. Later changed to The Professional Association of Nurses supporting people with Developmental Disability Australia. PANDDA Inc.
Through PANDDA, Nurses supporting people with a developmental disability were able to liaise with universities and government departments to ensure professional standards in developmental disability nursing were maintained, and the rights and self-determination of people with an intellectual disability were upheld and protected.