A year of challenges and successes

Burnet Institute

19 May, 2021

The year 2020 has been acknowledged as ‘one of the most challenging in Burnet Institute’s history, but also one of our most successful’, in the Institute’s 2020 Annual Report presented to today’s virtual Annual General Meeting.

In his Director’s Message, Professor Brendan Crabb AC paid tribute to Burnet’s significant contribution to Australia’s amazing ‘COVID-zero’ outcome during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The onset of the COVID-9 pandemic required a complete reassessment of the Institute’s priorities and operations to maximise our contribution to the local, national and international response, and ensure the safety and wellbeing of our staff,” Professor Crabb said.

“Our focus on mathematical modelling, public health responses, behavioural science, vaccines and rapid diagnostics delivered enormous value for the country and the region.”

Professor Crabb noted with concern the impact of the pandemic on Burnet’s international operations and the health systems in Papua New Guinea and Myanmar, where the situation is complicated by political volatility and unrest.

Successes for the Institute in 2020 outlined by Professor Crabb included:

  • A record for Burnet of 293 peer-reviewed publications
  • Competitive grants at record levels including AUD$13million in MRFF and NHMRC grants and fellowships
  • Strengthened national and international collaborations
  • Improved financial base
  • A SAGE Athena Swan Institutional Bronze Award for work undertaken to address gender equity including diversity and inclusion.

Burnet Institute Chairman, Ms Mary Padbury noted the involvement of Burnet staff in advisory roles, in advocacy and communications, and in supporting the Federal and Victorian Departments of Health in response to COVID-19.

In her Chairman’s Message, Ms Padbury also referred to the Institute’s new strategic plan, which is well underway.

“While the vision and the purpose of the Institute will not alter, additional activities that strengthen our indigenous health programs and health issues associated with a rapidly changing world will be incorporated,” Ms Padbury said.

“In addition, the newly announced Australian Institute of Infectious Disease … will play a large part in the Institute’s long-term development and strategic collaborations.”

Gust-McKenzie Medal honours Burnet’s founding directors

Burnet Econometrician, Dr Nick Scott, who’s modelling work has been tremendously impactful over the past 15 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, was named the winner of the Gust-McKenzie Medal for 2021.

Named in honour of founding directors of the Burnet and Austin Research Institutes, Professor Ian Gust AO and Emeritus Professor Ian McKenzie AM, the Gust-McKenzie Medal is presented annually to an outstanding mid-career Burnet staff member in recognition of excellence in research and/or public health.

Three Burnet Directors – Professor Christina Mitchell AO, Professor Sharon Lewin AO, and Associate Professor Helen Evans AO – whose terms were expiring were reappointed after nominating for re-election.

Find out more about Burnet’s activities and achievements in the 2020 Annual Report.

Staff Member



Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Professor Brendan Crabb AC

Director and CEO; Co-Head Malaria Research Laboratory; Chair, Victorian Chapter of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI)




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