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Wendy Walters: A nurse who made a world of difference

Wendy Walters
February 1959 – November 2019

A Wimmera nurse who helped change the approach to dementia support in aged care facilities around the world has died after a short illness.

Wendy Louise Walters was born in Melbourne, the second daughter of Flo and Bob Beard and sister to Julie and Leanne. She had two children Emma and Ben. She attended Footscray North Primary School and Maribyrnong High School before starting her nursing studies at Western General Hospital in August 1976.

Wendy studied midwifery at Mercy Maternity Hospital but after her children were born, her passion for aged care took over. 

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She worked at McLeod nursing home then started her management career at Elizabeth House. 

During this time Wendy completed a Masters in Health at La Trobe University and her love of learning and evidence-based practice would choose her destiny.

Wendy’s management career continued with Blue Cross at Western Gardens and the Boulevard. The Boulevard was a very difficult job because a nursing home in a nearby suburb closed down the day after the Boulevard opened and Wendy managed 80 admissions in three weeks to ensure everyone had a home. 

When the Boulevard was accredited 12 months after opening, the assessors said that they ‘could feel the Boulevard’s heart beating’.

Rural Northwest Health enticed Wendy to the country in 2010. 

She started as Hopetoun campus manager and weaved her magic, accessing grants and community support to encourage more visitors and make the campus more homely. 

She empowered the team to make the changes they wanted to make.

In 2012, she moved to Warracknabeal and started the world renowned Wattle project because before then, residents living with dementia did not have a voice. 

The project included the introduction of the ABLE model of care, which Wendy spent countless hours developing with her close friend and then Rural Northwest Health chief executive Catherine Morley.

This project was the catalyst to Rural Northwest Health becoming known as a place of excellence regionally, nationally and internationally. 

The work Wendy led was presented at conferences in Australia, America and China and visitors came from across the world to the Warracknabeal campus to see it in action.

A Wattle video on YouTube with Wendy explaining the program has been viewed 32,000 times and is used by University of Tasmania as part of its dementia course. 

Wendy was passionate and committed to her nursing and her creed was always about ‘the resident in the bed and the resident in the chair’ and giving every aged care resident the best possible life in their new environment.

Her dedication played a big part in Rural Northwest Health winning numerous state and national awards. 

A Senate enquiry into dementia care in Sydney and Melbourne in 2016, was detoured to Warracknabeal after hearing of the amazing achievements that were happening in Wattle. 

Wendy and her team were questioned for several hours and provided many recommendations to the enquiry.

Wendy had a second obsession and it was the Carlton Football Club. 

It began when she was 10, attending matches with her father Bob and later with her son Ben and friend Julie. 

She rarely missed a game and even travelled to New Zealand or Perth for a weekend just to watch her Blues.

In February this year, a few days before her 60th birthday, Wendy took on a new challenge and joined her close friend and colleague Catherine Morley at Wimmera Health Care Group in Horsham as Director of Residential Services.

In April, only a few weeks into her role, a liver cancer diagnosis would drop an atomic bomb on a remarkable career and an extraordinary life. 

Wendy will be missed greatly by her family, friends and colleagues, but her passion and person centred care is instilled in everyone’s heart and they will continue to work together to ensure they deliver the care that every resident deserves.

– Peter Miller

The entire November 20, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!