Growing up in Sydney
I grew up in Sydney’s northern beaches. Back then, the suburb of Newport was relatively remote with beaches, waterways and large tracts of unspoiled bushland and we lived surrounded by wildlife including kookaburras and koalas in the trees in our backyard.
Education was a strong theme in my childhood, fuelled by my own parents’ lack of opportunity for advanced education. I attended our local state schools, Newport Primary School and Pittwater High School. I was the first in my family to go to university. In fact, I was the first in my family to finish high school.
Why did I decide to become a doctor?
It was only when I was putting down my preferences for university that I asked myself, “What do I really love doing?” I realised I loved working with people. I wanted to make a difference. I liked science. That all coalesced to a decision to apply for medical school. As fate would have it, I got in with my first preference of Sydney University.
Just after my 23rd birthday, I graduated from the University of Sydney. That same year, during my internship, I had my first child, Jaime. My son Carl was born two years later when I was a senior resident.
I've been a GP in Sydney now for over 30 years, establishing and operating a number of clinics.
In 1985, I started working in health communication, bringing messages about healthy lifestyle to the attention of the general public. I was the health columnist for the Australian Women's Weekly for 25 years and have written six health books, including a textbook on general practice. For 12 years, I was the health editor for the Today Show, worked on the ABC series EveryBody and Seven Network's Last Chance Surgery.
Over the years, I have had the honour of volunteering for many community and charity groups including ACON, Wear It Purple, Australia Day Council, Barnardo’s Australia, Hockey Australia, Prostate Cancer Foundation, The Pinnacle Foundation, and Bowel Cancer Foundation.
In 2000, I was elected as the first female President of the Australian Medical Association, a post I held for the maximum term of three years. Under my presidency, the AMA developed its first position statements on the association between climate change and human health, on complementary medicine, on sexuality and gender diversity, on the medical response to bioterrorism and established the first Indigenous Health Report Card.
In 2011, I was honoured to receive an Order of Australia for service to medicine.
Two years later, I was invited to meet with HRH Prince Charles and to open the Global Health Futures Conference in India.
Championing Sydney's Progressive Values
I am a passionate advocate for civil rights, particularly equality for the LGBTQI community and the rights of vulnerable children.
I've been proud to be involved in the struggle for LGBTQI equality for over two decades.
Jackie and I made the deliberate decision to speak publicly about our relationship and lobby for same-sex civil rights, despite family fallout and considerable public criticism and personal risk. Jackie made the difficult decision to quit her much-loved teaching job, following her decision to continue to speak publicly about our relationship back in 1998. The years of advocacy culminated in the marriage equality campaign which reached a successful conclusion in 2017.
We adopted our daughter Gabi in 2012, becoming the first same-sex couple unrelated to the child to do so in New South Wales. This followed our involvement in the campaign to have the law changed in New South Wales.
In 2018, I won the by-election in the Federal seat of Wentworth and entered the House of Representatives where I advocated for action on climate change, for the establishment of a National Integrity Commission, for universal access to early childhood education, support for the ABC and for an end to live sheep exports. I argued for children and their families to be released from Nauru, spearheading the landmark Medevac Law to rescue critically ill refugees from Manus Island and Nauru.
Reviving Our City
Sydney is the greatest city in the world but we are at a crossroads.
Even before the COVID-19 lockdowns, Sydney's been struggling with a lack of vitality and over-congestion. Massive development has been going ahead for the past decade or more, with infrastructure and quality of life an afterthought.
The future of our city depends on intelligent planning to think ahead about schools, transport, sporting facilities and open space.
We need to recognise the inherent value of the arts and culture to the life of a city.
Governments at all levels need to prioritise the health and wellbeing of all of Sydney’s residents, workers and visitors and to optimise the environment for businesses to thrive.