As part of a Q&A blog series on new 2022 PHAA SIG convenors, we spoke to Dr Fiona Robards, an active PHAA member who now leads the PHAA Child & Youth Health Special Interest Group with fellow Co-Convenor Cristyn Davies.
Name, title/position, and summary of Public Health career trajectory to date.
I’m Dr Fiona Robards, Lecturer in the public health stream of the Master of Sexual and Reproductive Health at The University of Sydney. I also work in public health policy for government, and as a public health consultant.
My career has transitioned from being a Child and Family Psychologist to managing health services for homeless young people, and then to capacity building and policy for young people’s health and academia.
Who has been the person that most influenced your career path, and how?
Gillian Calvert, former Commission for Children and Young People in NSW, was a great mentor who fostered my interest in child and youth rights. She is wonderfully enthusiastic and vibrant, and reminds me of my grandmother, who supported me as a child.
Greatest achievement to date?
My greatest achievements are my PhD on How marginalised young people navigate the Australian Health System and book What makes you happy? I’ve also completed four Masters degrees – in Psychology, Art Therapy, Public Health, and Health Management.
Why did you volunteer to become an office bearer in this Branch/SIG?
Advocacy for children and young people’s rights and health is a passion, and policy is my strength. Being the Co-convenor for the Child and Youth SIG (and previously the Mental Health SIG) brings together the elements of Ikigai. Ikigai is the intersection where your passions and talents converge with the things that the world needs and is willing to pay for (although I am a volunteer with the PHAA, the role forms part of my work in ‘governance, leadership and engagement’ for The University of Sydney).
I also volunteer on the Steering Committee for the Australian Child Rights Taskforce that coordinates Australia’s NGO reporting to the UN on the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
What are your goals or priorities for your branch/SIG during your term?
My primary focus is to develop new policies on children and young people’s health and rights, and provide input into PHAA submissions.
Favourite quote or life lesson?
Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. Mahatma Gandhi
Was there anything else you’d like to mention?
Women can make great leaders to achieve positive outcomes for all. My advice to the next generation of female public health leaders is: don’t sit back. Create the right networks. Look for opportunities and openings and step forward into those spaces – both for yourself and so you can better help others.
At the same time, we need to create spaces to elevate and support more women into leadership roles in the future.