Fiona Stanley

Quick facts

Name: Fiona Juliet Stanley
Born: 1 August 1946, Little Bay, New South Wales
2003 Australian of the Year


Born in New South Wales, Fiona Stanley moved to Perth, Western Australia with her family in 1956. Her interest in science and medicine developed throughout her childhood and she was heavily influenced by her father, who was one of the world's first virologists and worked on the polio vaccine in the 1950s.

Dr Stanley completed her medical degree at the University of Western Australia in 1970. During her studies she worked in the Aboriginal Clinic in East Perth. The poor health of many of the children who visited the clinic inspired Dr Stanley to dedicate her professional life to researching the causes of childhood illness and birth defects.

After graduating from university Dr Stanley worked in the UK, completing a Masters Degree in Epidemiology from the University of London, and then worked in the USA. She returned to Australia and held positions at the University of Western Australia and the Health Department of Western Australia before establishing the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in 1990. Today, the research areas of the insitute include Aboriginal health; asthma; allergy and respiratory disorders; bioinformatics; children's cancer & leukaemia; child development and wellbeing; datasets and cohort studies; diabetes; obesity and related disorders; disability and developmental disorders; drug discovery (phylogica); environmental impacts on health; genetic impacts on health; impacts on policy and practice; infectious disease; mental health; and pregnancy and maternal health.

Her role in the discovery that a diet rich in folic acid during pregancy can prevent spina bifida in babies and that cerebral palsy may be caused by factors other than birth trauma alone, such as infections or blood incompatibilities, are her two greatest achievements. She is also widely recognised for her contributions to Indigenous child and maternal health in Western Australia.

Her achievements have been recognised with a number of awards and honours. She was named a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1996, recieved a Centenary Medal in 2001, was the 2003 Australian of the year and named a national living treasure by the National Trust in 2004. Her image has also been featured on Australian stamps and she was an Olympic torch bearer in 2008.

Dr Stanley retired at the end of 2011, however, remains involved in a number organisations, including the School of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Western Australia; the University of Melbourne; she is a board member of the ABC; and is the Chair of the newly-formed Alcohol Advertising Review Board.

A hospital named after Dr Stanley is due to open in Murdoch, Western Australia in 2014.




  • Stanley, Fiona, Eva Alberman (ed.), The Epidemiology of the Cerebral Palsies, Mac Keith Press, 1991.
  • Stanley, Fiona, Sue Richardson and Margot Prior, Children of the Lucky Country?, Pan Macmillan, 2005.
  • Stanley, Fiona, Eve Blair and Eva Alberman, Cerebral Palsies: Epidemiology and Causal Pathways, Mac Keith Press, 2000.