During his ministry, Woodley worked mainly in rural churches and had extensive contact with Aboriginal people. However, he also held a part time UCA Assembly (national secretariat) paid position as Convenor of the National Social Justice Committee between 1977 and 1982 while also working in a Queensland parish.
After his election, Woodley wished to remain a "Minister of the Word" and the church deemed his parish to be the Senate and his parishioners to be the people of Queensland.
Woodley was elected in March 1993 as the second Australian Democrats Senator for Queensland and appointed to his seat in July 1993. Woodley was for a time the Democrats' spokesperson on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Family Services, Regional Development and Agriculture.
Woodley resigned from the Senate in August 2001 with three years to run in his second term, not long after the party's members voted for Natasha Stott Despoja to replace Meg Lees as the Parliamentary Leader of the Democrats. The reason given for his resignation was health reasons, but he also stated that "I don't have the same commitment to the new leadership team. Woodley was among the Democrat Senators who voted with Meg Lees to introduce the GST. The casual vacancy for his seat for the Democrats was filled by Senator John Cherry.
In retirement, Woodley continues to be active in church circles in Queensland.
U.S. SENATOR JOHN W. WARNER (R-VA) HOLDS HEARING ON THE NOMINATIONS OF JOHN WOODLEY TO BE AN ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE ARMY,
Feb 15, 2005; .STX U.S. SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE HOLDS A HEARING ON THE NOMINATIONS OF JOHN WOODLEY TO BE AN ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE...