Mary Padbury: Legal eagle steers flock with mix of humour and pragmatism

Tracy Parish

18 July, 2012

Photo: Justin McManus, published in The Age

In a fascinating profile of Burnet Board member, Mary Padbury published in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, she talks about the need for increasing medical research funding and the Institute’s “ very practical, no-nonsense, get-on-with-it way.‘’

Now in her third three-year term as chairman of one of Australia’s top law firms, Ashurst (previously known as Blake Dawson) Mary is renowned for her good humour and pragmatic insight.

A specialist in intellectual property law - ‘'the ownership of ideas’‘ – she admitted to writer Leonie Wood that it was a little ironic: ’‘I was hopeless at science, yet I’ve spent my whole legal career focused on science.’'

Mary joined the Burnet Board in 2011 and her sister Pip Pattison, a psychology professor and a deputy vice-chancellor at Melbourne University also sits on the Board.

Excerpt from the article:

Medical research funding is one of the issues she says Australia cannot afford to ignore. Despite abundant talent in the local medical research industry, governments have failed to increase funding, she says.

She notes the Burnet Institute has programs in Micronesia on sexually transmitted diseases, and in Papua New Guinea focusing on HIV-AIDS treatment and containment.

In Australia, it does much work on HIV and hepatitis - all in what Padbury described as ‘'a very practical, no-nonsense, get-on-with-it way’‘. The obvious effect is to reduce the money the government might otherwise spend on healthcare.

‘'So to cut the money for research … just doesn’t make sense,’‘ she says. ’‘If you stand back as a country, we are obviously doing really well … but I don’t think we are really planning 'what next?’ and ‘what do we do in addition?’.‘’

Padbury does not sheet blame solely to the Gillard government, though. ‘'It’s an overall failure of leadership,’‘ she says, adding the tight, three-year turnaround in the election cycle creates a short-term focus.

Click here to read the entire article.



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Paul Rathbone

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