After almost two decades as a Burnet Director, including four years as Chair, Mr Robert Milne has retired from the board, leaving a proud legacy of sustained growth for the Institute, accomplished with exceptional leadership.
Mr Milne, who took over as Chair in tragic circumstances when Alastair Lucas was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2014, is succeeded by Ms Mary Padbury, a corporate lawyer with international expertise in the field of intellectual property, and Burnet board member since 2011.
After presiding over his final board meeting on Tuesday, Mr Milne reflected with modesty on his ‘quiet contribution’ to Burnet’s mission of improving the health outcomes of poor and marginalised communities in Australia and internationally.
Image: Mr Milne on a visit to Burnet research sites in Myanmar
“When I think of Burnet as it was 19 years ago and then look at it today, I see enormous change, change that has been strategic and mission-based,” Mr Milne said.
“We have been blessed with a series of wonderful directors – Ian Gust, John Mills, Steve Wesselingh, Mark Hogarth in an acting capacity, and Brendan Crabb.
“They have been supported by the whole staff of the Institute, who are driven by a desire to improve the lives of people for whom life is difficult.
As CEO and later Chairman of international construction contractors, Hooker Cockram Limited, Mr Milne brought a wealth of corporate experience to the Burnet board that was invaluable during key events including:
- Burnet’s move from Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital to the AMREP precinct
- Burnet’s merger with the Austin Research Institute
- Expansion of the Institute’s international health activities
- Construction and development of the Alfred Centre laboratories and facilities (ACS2).
“One of our biggest achievements during my time on the Board was the building of ACS2,” Mr Milne said.
“Conceived originally by Alastair Lucas when he was the Chair, it became a marathon requiring bold decisions, dealing with government, bankers, tenants, lawyers, designers and builders.
Image: Mr Milne in the Burnet laboratories with malaria researcher Dr Jo-Anne Chan
“It nearly all came badly unstuck after the global financial crisis in late 2007, but we survived after an enormous effort from the senior management team and many board members.
“This created an asset that has grown in value and provided Burnet with underlying profitability that has supported our research activities.”
Burnet Director and CEO Professor Brendan Crabb AC described Mr Milne as a ‘heavy-lifting, engaged’ board member, whose counsel and guidance was critical in negotiating this difficult period.
Image: Board directors farewell long-standing director and Chair, Rob Milne. (L-R Peter Colman, Professor Sharon Lewin AO, John Georgakis, Professor Brendan Crabb AC, Ben Foskett, Mary Padbury, Rob Milne and Alison Larsson)
“The calm, wise expertise of Rob and the nerve he showed sticking with us through those moments and coming out the other side, I hugely appreciate,” Professor Crabb said.
“The one thing I can guarantee is that Burnet would not be as it is now without Rob and his contribution.
“He’s done something profound for our community and the wider world, and he goes with our very best wishes and sincere and heartfelt thanks.”