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Fiona Stanley AC

b. 1946

Fiona Stanley AC (b. 1946), epidemiologist, is one of Australia’s passionate advocates for children and young people. Having studied in Perth, the USA and the UK, Stanley returned to Western Australia to establish university and government health research programs. From the late 1980s she contributed to worldwide research showing that a maternal diet rich in folic acid reduces the likelihood of a baby’s being born with a neural tube (spinal cord) defect. In Western Australia, three years after commencement of the world’s first population program to reduce the incidence of spina bifida through intake of folic acid, the rate of its incidence was nearly halved. Stanley also discovered that cerebral palsy is not due so much to birth trauma as to events earlier in pregnancy, such as infections or placental problems which disrupt normal brain development. Her initiative Ngunytju Tjitji Pirni, a service of enhanced care for Aboriginal women and children in the Eastern Goldfields of WA, was the first of its kind in Australia. Stanley has written more than three hundred papers and book chapters and undertakes a host of speaking engagements every year. She was the founding Director of the Institute for Child Health Research in 1990, and as a result of her lobbying, the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) was launched in 2002. She was the 2003 Australian of the Year. The Fiona Stanley Hospital opened in Perth in 2013.

Updated 2017