About Helen

About Helen

I have lived and worked as a nurse, midwife, health administrator and rural health researcher in Northeast Victoria for more than 32 years.

I grew up with my four brothers on our family dairy farm near Colac in Western Victoria where I was so lucky to lead a full country life- raising calves, helping in the dairy, harvesting hay. I attended Eurack state primary school, a tiny one room, one-teacher school where enrolments rarely exceeded 12 students. After completing year 12 in Colac, I followed in the footsteps of my aunts and trained as a registered nurse at St Vincent’s Hospital and later as a midwife at the Mercy Maternity Hospital in Melbourne.

In 1986 I moved to Northeast Victoria to begin work as a midwife at the Wangaratta Base Hospital before being appointed as the youngest ever matron and Director of Nursing at the Chiltern Bush Nursing Hospital. During my years running the hospital at Chiltern I learnt the fundamental importance of the local health service, schools and sporting clubs as touch stones of connection and lifeblood of small rural communities.

During this time I undertook a bachelor’s degree through distance study at Deakin University and later returned to Northeast Health Wangaratta where I was a foundation member in a small team of midwives as we established the Wangaratta Community Midwife Program. This pioneering program recently celebrated 20 years of service to women and families across the region and is recognised as a world leader in rural midwifery care.

My passion for education, the kind of education that neither of my parents had access to, led me to further study in epidemiology and public health through a master’s degree at the UNSW which took me and my family to Uppsala University, Sweden, in 2004. I later commenced my PhD at Uppsala University, completing a doctoral degree in Medical Science in 2012 and a postdoctoral fellowship at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, home of the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology. The doctoral research work I completed in this time, relying on research conducted right here in Wangaratta, is now implemented in healthcare across the UK, Ireland, Europe and Scandinavia.

The skills, capacity & willingness to pitch in and make things happen are the key features of rural communities which inspire me to do what I can to contribute as well. I am a board member of St Catherine’s Aged Care in Wangaratta and Indigo Power Community Energy Retailer. I am a former director of the Hume Medicare Local, former director, chair and now life member of Ovens and King (now Gateway) Community Health Service, and former board member and chair of Wangaratta Unlimited, economic advisory board to the Rural City of Wangaratta. I am a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Alpine Valleys Community Leadership program.

I live with my husband Phil on a small beef farm by the King River outside Wangaratta, where we had the joy of raising our three children and for many years also ran a farm-stay accommodation business. Right up until standing for Indi I worked as a Senior Research Fellow with the University Of Melbourne Department Of Rural Health and as the Director of Education and Research Unit at Northeast Health Wangaratta.

As our sitting member Cathy McGowan prepares to leave the parliament, it is a huge privilege for me to receive her endorsement and ‘receive the baton’ as an Independent Candidate at this Federal election.