PANDDA represents the professional interests

of nurses who support people who have

an intellectual developmental disability.


| About Us

The Professional Association of Nurses in Developmental Disability Australia Inc. (PANDDA) represents the professional interests of nurses who support people who have an intellectual developmental disability.

Join a nursing group that disseminates information and promotes communication between national and international organisations related to the field of developmental intellectual disability.

Our Mission

Nurses who work with people with Intellectual and developmental disabilities work in partnership with the person, their families/carers and support services, acknowledging and valuing their right to personcentred care, independence, self-determination, choice, and decision-making.

Nurses respect that health and wellbeing is a fundamental right for all people, including those with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families (World Health Organization 2007).

Nurses who work with people with Intellectual and Developmental disabilities are known to care with great passion and commitment, addressing the biopsychosocial needs of a person with intellectual and developmental disabilities across a range of contexts, and over time.

The challenges experienced by people with intellectual or developmental disabilities are lifelong and therefore have the potential to impact on the person across their entire lifespan.

This strategic plan and the mission of PANDDA are also aligned with and underpinned by the principles of the Nursing and Midwives Board of Australia, Standards for Practice. That is, that nursing practice is person-centred and evidence-based with preventative, curative, formative, supportive, restorative, and palliative elements. Nurses work in therapeutic and professional relationships with individuals, as well as with families, groups and communities. These people may be healthy and with a range of abilities or have health issues related to physical or mental illness and/or health challenges.

Our Goals

PANDDA is committed to:

1. Promoting PANDDA to increase, expand and strengthen PANDDA membership.

2. Disseminating and promoting current and relevant information about nursing and intellectual and developmental disability.

3. Convening an annual conference.

4. Raising PANDDA’s professional profile and the role of nurses who work with people with Intellectual and developmental disabilities through political presence and leadership.

5. Promoting research in nursing and people with intellectual and developmental disability.

6. Ensuring sound governance.

| PANDDA Committee

2023/2024 Executive Committee


Gail Tomsic

Vice President

Sharon Paley


Sue Easton


Louise Hedges

Membership Secretary and Public Officer

Louise Hedges

Conference Co-Conveners

Bob Weaver

Sharon Paley

PANDDA Committee Members

Bob Weaver, Virginia Howie, Maree McCulloch, Norma Cloonan, Julie Gibson, Rhonda Beggs, Jennifer Bur, Denise Robinson, Macey Barratt, and Maria Heaton

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.

| History of Disability Nursing in Australia

In Australia developmental disability nursing can trace its history concurrently with legislative change, social and human rights movements, and from its early days along side that of mental health nursing.

During the 1960s the underpinning philosophies of care included: the medical model of care, disability, impairment and handicap, as classified by the World Health Organisation.

In 1969 Nurse Training commenced in (Mental Retardation) Developmental Disabilities, and a separate nurse register was established.

During the 1970s the underpinning philosophies of care included: Lifespan and holistic approach to client care, client rights, normalisation, least restrictive alternative, nursing care plans, behaviour modification and habilitation to name a few. During this decade the first group homes were also opened.

During the 1980s the underpinning philosophies of care included: social role valorisation, parent movements, individual service plans, individual programme plans, Intellectual Disability, nurse client relationships, partnerships, independence and advocacy. Nurse training moves to the Higher Education sector, the International year of Disabled Person was held, the Richmond Report was released, and the Disability Discrimination Act and Guardianship Act were enacted. In the latter 80s and early 90s Deinstitutionalisation began. PANDDA is formed, Challenging Behaviors, Barclay Report and Community Living. Client services were transferred from the Health portfolio to the Welfare portfolio.

During the 1990s underpinning philosophies of care included: Disability Service Act and Community Services Act were introduced. Other major reports and documents informing service delivery were the Commonwealth Disability Strategy, the Lachlan Report, a new department of Ageing and Disability was established, client focused outcomes, client centred services, consumers and community living. There was to be self-determination, decision-making, stakeholders and choices.

| PANDDA History