8 March 2020
Austin Health's International Women's Day celebrations on Friday celebrated women who inspire us - whether incredible guest speaker Tope Adepoyibi, or the women chosen for this year's awards.
Tope has spent much of her career responding to infectious disease outbreaks across the developing world, and last year became the first African Australian AFL Women's umpire.
"I grew up all over the Northern Territory. Think school of the air, frill-neck lizards, light planes and Secret Women's Business. It was a privilege. From an early age, I bore witness to the unacceptable health inequalities between the original owners of this country...and everyone else. It was here that my public health calling was born," Tope says.
Tope took a packed lecture theatre through her 'International Women's Day heroes', from her grandmother, "a kick-ass military nurse and matriarch", to Papua New Guinean nurse, Jacinta, who was raising her niece after her sister was killed by her husband. Jacinta "was single-minded in her pursuit - she was going to get her niece the best education she could."
"She told me how the rats would gently nibble the dead skin from her and her niece's feet" and "about the new solar-powered light she bought for her niece so she could study at night without electricity. Jacinta made it happen. Her niece has since graduated from university and is a superstar," Tope says.
Tope's final hero and umpiring mentor was Joy Cardona, a Traditional Owner of the Malak Malak, and "a legend in the Northern Territory Football League since the 1970s, where she's played, managed teams and was the first Aboriginal woman to umpire 100 AFL games."
Following these stories of formidable women, Austin Health's ‘Celebrating Inspiring Women' awards were given out.
One woman awarded is endocrinologist, Dr. Ada Cheung, who last year lead the research team who wrote the first ever set of Australian guidelines for treatment of trans and gender diverse adults, which was published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
Ada's research focuses on improving healthcare for transgender and gender diverse communities, including by understanding and breaking down everyday barriers to better health outcomes.
"I don't see my work as inspirational; it's just the right thing to do," Ada says.
"Feeling safe, and having safe access to healthcare should be the case for everyone."
Physiotherapy Innovation Lead Mel Gregory, who has led or been involved in a number of high impact projects at Austin Health, was moved by the recognition from her colleagues.
"I spend all my time trying to help other people be better, so I'm really touched that other people see value in what I do," Mel says.
Director of Allied Health, Brit Gordon says that "Mel is a wonderful mix of creativity, practicality and pragmatism... She seems to have an endless store of witticisms, stories and relevant research to share and engage with the hearts and minds of others."
Print Room manager Norma Ward also feels overwhelmed by her award, given for her combination of good humour, ability to get the job done quickly, and rigorous adherence to quality, especially in regard to patient information.
"This is very very overwhelming...I absolutely love what I do, and interacting with people. I just do my job," Norma says.
Also awarded were Acquired Brain Injury Unit associate nursing manager, Daryl Kho, recognised for her gentle and cooperative leadership style, and Radiation Oncology Chief Medical Physicist, Dr. Kym Rykers, who is a trailblazer in her field.
Kym's appointment as Chief Radiation Oncology Physicist 20 years ago was unique in Australian medical physics, and she has championed the role of women in the field ever since.
Congratulations to all our winners and thank-you for your efforts in breaking down barriers for others.