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Remembering Ray Wyeth

7 Apr 2022

On October 11 2021, Nurse and Midwife Raymond Clifford Wyeth tragically lost his life while working in an ambulance in Stanwell, Central Queensland, along with the patient he was caring for. Ray’s colleagues share their dearest memories and reflect on his legacy.

1 Ray at Bloomfield River 1979

Ray at Bloom­field Riv­er, 1979.

In 1979, Ray and Jen­nie sat on the banks of the Bloom­field Riv­er in Far North Queens­land with the Kuku Yalan­ji, Kuku Nyun­gul and Jalun­ji people. 

These moments were a rev­e­la­tion to Ray, who had just com­plet­ed his final nurs­ing exams and made the bumpy jour­ney to vis­it his part­ner near her work­place at the Wujal Wujal Abo­rig­i­nal Community.

When we get mar­ried,” Ray said, This is the nurs­ing I want to do. I want to work with these folks.”

Com­mit­ments such as rais­ing their son, Tim, took prece­dence, but Ray nev­er lost sight of his goal, tak­ing every oppor­tu­ni­ty to equip him­self for service.

3 Ray top left during his nursing studies

Ray, top left, dur­ing his nurs­ing studies.

In the ear­ly 1980s, Ray could be seen in scrubs, train­ing as a mid­wife at Roy­al Bris­bane Women’s Hos­pi­tal, and lat­er, walk­ing down St Paul’s Ter­race, text­books under his arm, dur­ing his Mater­nal and Child Health studies.

He sub­se­quent­ly worked at Mary­bor­ough Hos­pi­tal, St Stephens Pri­vate Hos­pi­tal, and Her­vey Bay Hos­pi­tal, until 33 years after that influ­en­tial after­noon on the Bloomfield.

In 2012 we resigned our jobs and ven­tured into this world of Indige­nous health,” Jen­nie says.

Ray’s remote career began in Cher­bourg, work­ing for Baram­bah Region­al Med­ical Ser­vices (now known as CRAICCHS).

The Roy­al Fly­ing Doc­tor Service

1 Ray and Jennie in Kalgoorlie WA

Ray and Jen­nie in Kal­go­or­lie, WA.

In 2013, Ray became a flight nurse with Roy­al Fly­ing Doc­tor Ser­vice and oper­at­ed out of Kal­go­or­lie, Der­by and Port Hed­land until 2016.

Ray was a love­ly bloke, very much a bushie,” Senior Flight Nurse, Shane Miller, says. He was down to earth, no airs or graces.

He loved remote and rur­al areas of Aus­tralia… One of the pilots used to go out with him occa­sion­al­ly. They used to go camp­ing, sit­ting by a camp­fire, hav­ing a yarn.

He was just very relaxed. To be so relaxed, chilled, adapt­able… In our work as flight nurs­es, you have to be extreme­ly flex­i­ble because things can change in a mat­ter of minutes.”

3 Fishing at Cape Leveque WA while with RFDS Derby in 2015

Fish­ing at Cape Lev­eque, WA, while with RFDS Der­by in 2015.

Ray’s pass­ing was felt across the entire flight nurs­ing sec­tor, which is small enough for every­one to know everyone.

There’s only a small group of us – prob­a­bly 100, 120 in the coun­try,” Shane says.

From Kal­go­or­lie base to Ray’s fam­i­ly, his wife Jen­nie, and his son Tim, we send our con­do­lences, and we thank Ray for the time he spent with us.”

When there were no patients onboard, Ray some­times gazed out of the win­dow at the desert below, Jen­nie says.

Ray did what he called recon­nais­sance’ flights over the state to decide where to work next,” she says.

Ngaany­at­jar­ra Health Service

1 Ray with Wingellina Kids

Ray with Wingel­li­na kids.

In 2016, Ray found his next loca­tion – Wingel­li­na, remote WA. As an RN, Jen­nie had worked near Ray pre­vi­ous­ly; but in Wingel­li­na, they worked togeth­er as RANs.

Before sun­set we would some­times dri­ve the few min­utes to the tri-bor­der of WA, NT and SA, where it was fun hav­ing dip and crack­ers in three states at the same time,” Jen­nie remembers.

Ray’s main desire was to learn from the peo­ple, rather than teach them. He was keen to learn their tra­di­tion­al ways, their cul­tur­al lore, to lis­ten, to talk, to befriend, and to assist in their health care needs.

Ray con­sis­tent­ly per­formed a ser­vice to oth­ers in need, whether this was a per­son, fam­i­ly, a com­mu­ni­ty or a loved dog, and regard­less of the time and effort.

4 A true bushie Ray loved outback scenery

A brew­ing storm near Wingellina.

One time Ray was hon­oured to lead a funer­al pro­ces­sion by dri­ving the ambu­lance con­tain­ing the cof­fin. On week­ends he would take the chil­dren on adven­tures, or to a near­by com­mu­ni­ty swim­ming pool.

He had com­pas­sion, empa­thy, and con­vic­tion. He often deliv­ered help, which was not with­out risks and cost to him­self, and always with­out exter­nal gain.

He was a car­ing father fig­ure who encour­aged the kids to come to the clin­ic after school and learn first aid. As a mid­wife he gained trust with mums-to-be, deliv­er­ing pos­i­tive outcomes.”

3 Seated in the Ambulance Troopy

Ray seat­ed in the Ambu­lance Troopy.

When Jen­nie returned to Queens­land, Ray con­tin­ued at Wingel­li­na on a FIFO con­tract for two more years. Bev­er­ly Tysoe, Spe­cial­ist Coor­di­na­tor at Ngaany­at­jar­ra Health Ser­vice, fills us in on the peri­od until Ray’s depar­ture in 2019.

Ray was a pro­fes­sion­al and car­ing per­son who will be fond­ly remem­bered by the peo­ple in Wingel­li­na and by his co-work­ers at Ngaany­at­jar­ra Health Ser­vice,” Bev­er­ley says.

At work Ray was a ded­i­cat­ed health pro­fes­sion­al who advo­cat­ed for his patients and sup­port­ed them in their health journey. 

In his spare time, he would often dri­ve locals and vis­i­tors to water holes and landmarks. 

It was a plea­sure and a priv­i­lege to have known and worked with Ray.”

Ray’s return to midwifery

Ray and Kerri GREEN

Ray and Ker­ri Green.

Ray had joined nurs­ing agency CQ Nurse in 2016. CQ Nurse tells CRANAplus that Ray was a much-loved mem­ber of the CQ Nurse team, and he rep­re­sent­ed our organ­i­sa­tion impec­ca­bly for five years… He con­tin­ues to inspire us”.

Through CQ Nurse, Ray obtained a con­tract at Biloela Hos­pi­tal, where he crossed paths with for­mer col­league Ker­ri Green, a mid­wife who knew Ray from Her­vey Bay Hospital.

If you under­stand that the term mid­wife’ comes from the Old Eng­lish: mid’ mean­ing with’ and wif’ mean­ing woman’, you will under­stand that Ray wore the title mid­wife’ with­out a prob­lem,” Ker­ri says.

The women he deliv­ered care to, [quick­ly] loved and trust­ed him. The stu­dents he sup­port­ed and his col­leagues respect­ed him and enjoyed his sense of humour. They can­not help but smile when remem­ber­ing him.

Most will be able to tell you an amus­ing Ray sto­ry’ – some involv­ing knit­ting’ while super­vis­ing a stu­dent man­ag­ing a labour.

On a more seri­ous note… Ray had the abil­i­ty to deesca­late the ris­ing emo­tions of all involved while coor­di­nat­ing a calm approach to resolve [high stress situations].

He did briefly con­sid­er giv­ing up his Mid­wifery in 2018 but he made the mis­take of accept­ing a con­tract in Biloela where a pre­vi­ous Mid­wifery Man­ag­er was already work­ing. He was dobbed in as a mid­wife’ and giv­en a rapid re-entry… I was priv­i­leged to be that Mid­wifery Man­ag­er’, col­league and friend.

My life is rich­er for hav­ing known this incred­i­ble human being.”

4 Badu Island Torres Strait at Christmas time in 2016

Badu Island, Tor­res Strait, at Christ­mas time in 2016.

New acquain­tances also await­ed Ray in Biloela, such as Direc­tor of Nurs­ing at Biloela Hos­pi­tal, Tracey Hansen.

What real­ly stood out for me was the way in which Ray treat­ed all the peo­ple he came in con­tact with,” Tracey says. He cared for his clients as if they were his family.”

Ray was val­ued not only as a col­league but as a house-sit­ter, who enabled oth­ers to take much-need­ed leave while look­ing after their plants, cows and dogs. 

LOVE Bugz and Chili

Ray with Bugz and Chili.

When Ray house-sat, he would open all the win­dows and let the fresh air in,” Tracey says, before shar­ing an anec­dote passed onto her by col­league Maria RN/RM:

One day he was snug­gled on the lounge when he felt a pres­ence’, only to find one of the chooks had come inside and nes­tled beside him. Even the chooks felt relaxed with him!

Ray has enthused many of us to stretch our­selves and do things we real­ly want to do but were nev­er game.”

Ray’s younger col­leagues, who encoun­tered him dur­ing for­ma­tive peri­ods, echo this sentiment.

Ray was NUM on the post­na­tal ward at St Stephens Pri­vate Hos­pi­tal when Lor­raine Woods com­menced as a mid­wife. She lat­er worked with him at Her­vey Bay.

He was a car­ing, sen­si­tive, and gen­tle man who had a pas­sion­ate com­po­sure for women-cen­tred care,” Lor­raine recalls. After a cou­ple of years, he decid­ed to work rur­al and remote which was a pas­sion of mine but was nev­er the right time.

His sto­ries of his work were amazing.”

Those sto­ries inspired Lor­raine and in 2021, she obtained a posi­tion as clin­i­cal mid­wife in Weipa.

Once I made my deci­sion [to head] rur­al and remote we were to have lunch with friends and work­mates from St Stephens Pri­vate Hos­pi­tal… Ray was trag­i­cal­ly tak­en from us two days pri­or, which was devastating.

I was so excit­ed to tell him of my plans. [Then I felt], I will con­tin­ue his amaz­ing work with as much pas­sion as he had.”

Burn­ing the candle

2 Proud to wear the Ngaanyatjarra uniform

Ray Wyeth near Wingel­li­na, WA, in 2016, soon after he start­ed work­ing for Ngaany­at­jar­ra Health Service.

RFDS Doc­tor Nick Enzor; Steven Williamson, then-CEO of the Cen­tral Queens­land Hos­pi­tal and Health Ser­vice; Ray’s for­mer work­mate and cel­e­brant Fred Hamp­son; close friend Andrew Butkus; and Dr Tom Dunn, Mary­bor­ough RSL, all spoke at Ray’s funeral.

Deputy Nation­al Rur­al Health Com­mis­sion­er and Chief Nurs­ing and Mid­wifery Offi­cer, Queens­land Health, Adjunct Prof. Shel­ley Nowl­an, pre­sent­ed a Flo­rence Nightin­gale Trib­ute, dur­ing which she asked all nurs­es and mid­wives to stand.

40 to 50 per cent of the group that were present stood, not to men­tion the large num­ber that joined online,” Shel­ley tells CRANAplus.

1 Ray with his grandson

Ray with his grandson.

Ray walked the tracks that not many nurs­es and mid­wives do… Often, we get stuck in metro areas because there, life has ease of access, but Ray saw a dif­fer­ent world with­in rur­al and remote – not just for nurs­ing, but for his own growth and devel­op­ment, and con­tri­bu­tion to communities.

He was real, he was Ray… He brought his own per­son­al­i­ty, val­ues, and beliefs to share them with com­mu­ni­ty, valu­ing the community’s cul­ture and beliefs [in turn].

He came with­out judg­ment, he came with­out con­di­tion, and he cared for their needs, what­ev­er they might be – whether they were men­tal health, whether they were mater­ni­ty – and some­times just to be an ear, to be a friend that was hav­ing a yarn at the local pub or local park.

He is joined by a pro­fes­sion who mir­ror his val­ues, his con­cerns for com­mu­ni­ty, and the invest­ment to con­tin­ue to be bet­ter, to con­tin­ue on with his study… [as] evi­denced by his mem­ber­ship with CRANAplus.

What we saw in Ray is a mir­ror image of what we all aspire to have as attrib­ut­es and traits with­in his pro­fes­sion. Our admi­ra­tion is one col­le­gial­i­ty, one of: Thank you for burn­ing our candle’.”

Ray’s lega­cy

2 The immediate Wyeth family

Jen­nie, Ray and Tim.

Jen­nie believes her husband’s lega­cy can be one of inspiration.

I hope in Ray’s death, his life of car­ing and ser­vice is inspi­ra­tional to any nurse will­ing to com­bat adver­si­ty in a remote set­ting, to devel­op courage and deter­mi­na­tion, and to over­come any obsta­cles in order to achieve bet­ter health out­comes for all Australians.”

CRANAplus is offer­ing the Ray Wyeth Ear­ly to Remote Prac­tice Award for the first time in 2022. The award fol­lows Ray’s lead in encour­ag­ing and recog­nis­ing an emerg­ing remote health pro­fes­sion­al who demon­strates com­mit­ment and cul­tur­al safe­ty. Read more.