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Professor Fiona Stanley is passionate about the health of Australian children. She has dedicated her life to researching the causes of major childhood illnesses and birth defects so they can be prevented. Fiona strongly believes that we must get things right for children and families now, so we can look towards a positive and healthy future for Australia in the next 15 to 20 years. Born in Sydney in 1946, Fiona moved to Perth with her family in 1956. With an academic home life, her mother a humanities graduate and her father a scientist who worked on the polio vaccine, she graduated in medicine at the University of Western Australia in 1970.
She completed her clinical experience in hospitals and at the Aboriginal Clinic in East Perth, sparking an interest in epidemiology and public health. Epidemiology is the study of patterns of diseases in populations and the factors that influence those diseases. Fiona then studied these areas extensively in the United Kingdom and USA over the next six years before returning to Perth to establish research programs at the University of Western Australia and the Health Department of Western Australia. As founding director of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Western Australia in 1990, Fiona brought together clinical, laboratory and population health scientists to tackle the major issues in child health. One of her team's most important roles was in the international collaboration that discovered that folic acid before and during pregnancy can prevent spina bifida in babies. The Institute instigated the first public health campaign in the world to promote folate. The Institute has also forged a reputation as a leader in research to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal children.
Fiona has faced her own medical battles since being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999. But after operations and chemotherapy, she continues to work tirelessly in her research role. It is her research interests that have formed the basis of her advocacy for Australia's children. In 2002, she was appointed the Chief Executive Officer of the new Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth. Her professional focus stems from an alarming deterioration in key health indicators for children. Her aim with the Alliance is to secure a national commitment to an agenda to significantly improve the health and wellbeing of children and young people.
Fiona Stanley believes that we should try to do something with our time on earth that will make Australia a better place for generations to come.