60th Australia Day Pioneer Women’s Ceremony, 2021 was held at the Women’s Peace Garden, Kensington, a beautiful garden created by women in the International Year of Peace in 1986. This annual event celebrates Victorian Pioneer Women, conducted by the National Council of Women of Victoria, to acknowledge past and present women pioneers and includes a colour party and flag raising by Girl Guides Victoria and the singing of the National Anthem.
This year, the focus was on Victorian Pioneer Women in Medical Research.
There have been many women working in medical research over the past 100+ years including: Fannie Eleanor Williams, the first female medical research scientist at the Walter and Eliza Institute, and the first bacteriologist and serologist. She was an expert in dysentery due to her research during WW1, and was awarded the Associate Royal Red Cross for her work. She co-founded the Red Cross Blood Bank. Dora Lush, an accomplished bacteriologist, was a close collaborator with Sir Macfarlane Burnet 1934-39 researching diseases including influenza, herpes infections and myxomatosis.
Guest Speaker, Professor Susan Sawyer, Chair of Adolescent Health, Department of Paediatrics at the University of Melbourne, research fellow at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Director of the Centre for Adolescent Health, Royal Children’s Hospital, spoke on three themes:
Firstly, the importance of investing in medical research, and the value of evidence informed public health policies exemplified by reminding us of some of the highlights of our 2020 pandemic year.
The second theme was about the strong track record of Victorian women in medical research, sharing the achievements of two remarkable Victorian women pioneers of medical research, one, Vera Scantlebury Brown, in research and public policy from 100 years ago and the other in virology, Dr Ruth Bishop, from 50 years ago.
Thirdly, Susan shared her background in ground-breaking adolescent health and medicine.