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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 2023, I advocated both in media and at markets in favour of a referendum to change the Constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by establishing an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

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”. Soon after, I began Aged Care Matters. 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. Therefore, 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.