I decided I wanted to be a nutritionist when I was only six years old. I remember at school we were asked to bring eggs from home to help with the famine in Bangladesh. This still fascinates me; whatever happened to the few unbroken Australian eggs that survived such treatment?!
As a consequence I’d always intended to work in Asia. But during my first job in northern Victoria, I met Aboriginal Australians for the first time, and realised that malnutrition was also a very pressing problem amongst some sections of my own community. It was also clear that prevention was better than cure, and after moving out of the hospital system, my career has paralleled the rise of community and public health nutrition.
For over 30 years I’ve had the privilege of working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, trying to improve food supply and nutritional status mainly in Central and Northern Australia. In recent years, however, I have become increasingly frustrated by the rising prevalence of type 2 diabetes and associated renal disease in these communities. So many old friends and colleagues are dying far too young- an appalling situation in such an affluent country.
While trying to foster a more strategic approach to preventative health in Australia, my roles have included over 12 years as director of nutrition and physical activity within Queensland Health, various consultant and advisory positions, including as chair of the National Health and Medical Council’s Dietary Guidelines working committee, and other ‘pracademic’ positions.
I’m now Professor within the School of Public Health and Social Work and School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at the Queensland University of Technology. Major areas of research and practice include: preventative health with a focus on obesity prevention; food supply, food security and environmental sustainability; evidence translation and evidence-informed practice; complex health systems; program evaluation; and Indigenous health. Other academic appointments include Adjunct Professor, School of Environmental and Public Health, Griffith University. Previous appointments include Associate Professor at the University of Queensland, Visiting Fellow at Melbourne and Deakin Universities and Research Fellow at Menzies School of Health Research.
I’ve also worked as a public health nutritionist for organisations/governments including Northern Territory Health and Community Services, the Pitjantjatjara/Ngaangatjara Health Service, the Australian Government and the People’s Republic of China.
I am an Australian citizen. I hold a PhD from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney; BSc (Nutrition) and Post Grad Dip of Dietetics from Deakin University, and a Post Graduate Certificate Business Management from the Queensland University of Technology.