Prof Fiona Stanley
As part of our monthly segment, Our Community Leaders - Great Australian Leaders in Focus which features the thoughts of some of Australia's great leaders, this month we feature Professor Fiona Stanley, the 2003 Australian of the Year. A tireless and articulate campaigner for the health and wellbeing of our children, Professor Stanley AC was able to bring the issue to national prominence during her highly successful stint as Australian of the Year.

Professor Fiona Stanley AC, 2003 Australian of the Year.

Professor Fiona Stanley was born in Sydney in 1946 and moved to Perth in 1956. She studied medicine at the University of Western Australia and practised in hospitals for two years before going to the United Kingdom and USA for further training in epidemiology (the science of describing and explaining the occurrence of disease in populations), biostatistics and public health.

Prof. Stanley is the founding Director of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research that was established in Perth in 1990. The Institute is multi-disciplinary and researches prevention of major childhood illnesses. It currently has more than 300 employees. She is also the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, a national organisation that was formally constituted in June 2002 with an agenda to improve the health and well-being of young Australians.

We started by asking the 2003 Australian of the YearOur Community: Who do you consider to be the three great leaders of our time?  And Why?

Prof. Fiona Stanley:

  • Nelson Mandela
    • passionate commitment to ending apartheid/enhancing biracial harmony;
    • capacity to understand opposite views;
    • compassion for diverse range of people;
    • ability to communicate his vision to broad range of people.
  •  Eleanor Roosevelt
    • used her position to influence better world;
    • ability to relate across broad groups;
    • widely known - communicated warmly and intimately via her daily newspaper columns;
    • spokesperson for equality, not always popular in USA;
    • effectively used existing structures to achieve her vision e.g. UN Declaration of Human Rights;
    • sheer power of personality.
  • Paul Keating
    • fantastic vision for Australia (engage with Asia, reconciliation and land rights, economic reforms.)
Our Community: What are the three attributes you would consider to be essential to a leader?  And why?

Prof. Fiona Stanley:
  • Have a vision and articulate it in a way that inspires others.
  • Generosity and compassion.
  • Intellect, logic, evidence, worth.
Our Community: What are the three greatest barriers to new leaders emerging in Australia?

Prof. Fiona Stanley:
  • Individual greed and wealth creation.
  • The dumbing down of entertainment, schools, family environments, creativity, and society generally (increase in information but decrease in creative self).
  • Lack of spirituality/meaning to life.
Our Community: What advice would you give to a potential leader to taken them to the next stage?

Prof. Fiona Stanley:
  • Get wisdom, get inspiration, get information, and get support.
  • Research your area thoroughly/travel and see what others have done.
  • Logic of endeavour.
  • Take risks.
  • Enjoy what you do - if not don't!
  • Enjoy leading.
  • Listen to your friends/colleagues concerns - no one can lead alone.
  • Best leaders get a group of incredibly competent people around them.

To return to Leadership Interviews click here.