Professor Fiona Wood delivered the inaugural Jill Lindsay Oration during Women's Round

Dare to Dream

Monday, July 23, 2012

By Jennifer Witham

Professor Fiona Wood has delivered a stirring inaugural Jill Lindsay Oration at Friday's AFL Women's Industry Lunch, centered around her belief there is an "opportunity for leadership and role models everywhere we look."

Professor Wood, who is the head of the Royal Perth Hospital's burns unit and director of the Western Australia Burns Service, was named Australian of the Year in 2005 among other accolades. 

Her international acclaim for her invention of spray-on skin for burns victims, and for how she led the treatment of Bali bombing survivors in 2002, saw her chosen to deliver the oration, in memory of the late Jill Lindsay.

The oration - established this year as the cornerstone of the annual event - will feature prominent women "within and outside the football industry," and will help to celebrate women's leadership across the game's various levels.

Wood reflected on former North Melbourne player and Bali bombings victim Jason McCartney, who returned for one final AFL game less than eight months after being severely burned in the Indonesian terrorist attack of October, 2002.

"To see a final goal kicked from that kid from the Kangaroos, in that pressure suit, I though that is an extraordinary moment," Wood said.

"Who is he not to dream?

"When I met him, I said many people will have seen that, many people in the ground, many people on TV, and they'll think, wow, that was amazing.

"Few of us know how really amazing that was, to actually take on board a 50 per cent body surface area burn, which in many places in the world is 100 per cent lethal, to take that suffering and level of pain and come back within that matter of months to that level of elite sport is extraordinary.

"He's an inspiration, and when he came along to our burn unit, we had a patient who we couldn't get out of bed, a young man who thought his life was destroyed.

"Five minutes with Jason and he was skipping down the corridor."

McCartney benefitted from Wood's development of spray-on skin, and while he was unable to attend Friday's function, the two have remained in contact since.

Wood addressed over 600 attendees at Friday's lunch at Melbourne's Grand Hyatt, who also heard from a panel of key women working within the AFL landscape including goal umpire Chelsea Roffey, Port Melbourne assistant coach Peta Searle, Essendon strength scientist Suki Hobson and Geelong No.1 ticket holder and newsreader Rebecca Maddern.

Wood also contributed the work of people around her - and spoke of her desire to listen and respect the ideas and opinions of others - when referring to her position of leadership.

"I'm only in this position because I'm fortunate to be team leader of an extraordinary group of people," she said.

"I think that again is something we see within this industry a lot of the time.

"There's no point in being a leader without a team.

"I've done nothing in isolation and I'm very grateful for all those who are around me.

"If you're to innovate, actually gain something, learn something from today to make sure that tomorrow is better, you have to listen."

The 2012 recipient of the annual Jill Lindsay Scholarship - AFL umpires association administration coordinator Haley Robinson - was also acknowledged on Friday.

Robinson received $20,000 earlier this year to undertake further study to pursue a career in sports administration.

The six finalists of the 2012 Football Woman of the Year Award were also announced by the Essendon Women's Network.

They are:

  • Cheryl Cates (president of the South Australian Women's Football League)
  • Jo Del Prete (involved in all aspects of the game in Western Australia with an advisory role to the West Australian Football Commission)
  • Belinda Duarte (involved in setting up AFL SportsReady's indigenous program)
  • Peta Searle (assistant coach at VFL club Port Melbourne)
  • Suki Hobson (strength and conditioning coach at Geelong and Essendon)
  • Diana Taylor (first woman on the VFL Tribunal and president of the Western Region Football League)

The winner will be announced at the Essendon Women's Network Grand Final Comedy Debate on 27 September.


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