Woman Stanley, Fiona Juliet (1946 - )


Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Chief executive officer and Child and public health researcher

Written by Dorothy Erickson, Independent Scholar

Fiona Stanley is a leading child and public health researcher. She was born in Sydney in 1946, the daughter of Professor Neville Stanley and his wife Muriel and moved to Western Australia as a child when her father took up the post of foundation Professor of Microbiology at the newly established Medical School at the University of Western Australia. In Perth, she was educated at St Hilda's Anglican Girls' School and at the University of Western Australia where she completed a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery in 1970. Coming from a family of pure scientists she was not encouraged to go into medicine but a biography of Marie Curie inspired her to go in that direction. After graduation Fiona Stanley studied at the University of London where she obtained a Master of Science in Social Medicine and became a Member of the Faculty of Public Health Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians. It was here that she was introduced to epidemiology, biostatistics and public health. She returned to practise in Perth. From 1978 through to 1990 Stanley had two significant positions: senior medical officer (child health) for the Western Australian department of public health, and deputy director and principal research fellow of the National Health and Medical Research Council unit in epidemiology and preventive medicine at the University of Western Australia. It was her time in public health that influenced her to go into research. Her engagement, she reported, really started during her first year out as a resident doctor when she was heavily influenced by two trips around the state, not to carry out a proper epidemiological survey, but really as a fact-finding expedition. Her work with children at the Aboriginal Clinic in East Perth brought her to the front line of debate on public health. Her main areas of interest were birth defects and early childhood illnesses.

In 1990, by then a world leader in her field, Fiona Stanley founded the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research. This Institute has done groundbreaking work on researching the role of folic acid in the prevention of spinabifida. When she was named Australian of the Year in 2003 she used this opportunity to highlight what she saw as serious and ongoing social and medical problems. The latter she believed often resulted from the former; she famously declared that contemporary society is 'toxic for kids'. Stanley was the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth from 2001 to 2004 and then Chair of the organisation from 2008 to 2011. Since retiring from the Telethon Institute in 2011, she has held the positions of Distinguished Research Professor at the University of Western Australia and Vice Chancellor's Fellow at the University of Melbourne. She served on the Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council from 1998 to 2012. A new public hospital in Perth being built will be named the Fiona Stanley Hospital. She has also been commemorated through a stamp issued by Australia Post. She is married to Professor Geoffrey Shellam and has two daughters.

Published Resources

Edited Books

  • Who's who of Australian women : leadership and beyond, Crown Content, North Melbourne, Victoria, 2008. Details

Online Resources

See also