I trained as a critical care nurse before completing a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and a PhD at the University of Melbourne. I have been the principal researcher at Research Matters since 1999. My work focuses on public health, mental health, ethics and aged care.
I have been heavily involved with voluntary community projects for 40 years. As an undergraduate student at Melbourne University, I first learnt about the devastating impact of climate change, prompting me to volunteer at the Australian Conservation Foundation and Friends of the Earth. Later, I was on the committee of management at Thornbury Women’s Neighbourhood House and the Mental Illness Fellowship. I have also been a volunteer at Amnesty International and Community Aid Abroad and taught English to migrants and refugees.
In the mid-1990s, I worked as a registered nurse on Palm Island. I not only witnessed the impact of colonialism and racism on First Nations people but also saw how social and economic factors negatively affected their health and well-being.
In 1998, I was the first person in Victoria to file a complaint at the Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission over discrimination based on a mental illness. The complaint was resolved at mediation when the University of Melbourne agreed to implement policies for students with a mental illness. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor invited me to assist in developing these policies.
In 2003, I received a grant from beyondblue’s Centre of Excellence to investigate how people with a mental illness stay well. My book “A lifelong journey: staying well with bipolar disorder” has helped many thousands of people with a mental illness to live happy and productive lives.
In 2010, my parents moved into an aged care home. After Dad’s death in 2012, I visited Mum most days. I wanted Mum’s quality of life in the aged care home to be as good as it could be. Mum had already lost her husband and most of her independence, and I wanted her to feel valued in her ‘twilight years’. Although staff treated Mum with respect and love, I observed the systemic failures in the aged care system. In 2016, I had my first opinion piece on aged care published in The Age: “The aged care gravy train”. My persistent advocacy over the past six years for some of the most vulnerable people in our society has won widespread respect for my independent analysis.
I am the third generation of Reads/Russells to love the Mornington Peninsula. My grandparents built Briarcliff on the Osborne Estate in Mt Martha in 1935. In 1959, my mother put a prefab home on the same block. I am the proud owner of this home where I live permanently.
I have been a member of several political parties. I know how political parties operate. That is why I stood as an Independent for Flinders in the 2022 federal election. So I could represent the people of Flinders, rather than a political party.
Although I was unsuccessful, I had strong evidence-based policies on climate action, aged care, housing, cost of living, gender equity and health. My policy platform was transparency and accountability.
As demonstrated in this video, I gave the campaign a red hot go.