Miriam Dwyer first visited Queensland from her home in Ireland in 1984 to holiday with her Aunt who lived in Townsville, and remembers it like it was yesterday. It comes up several times during our meeting, and always makes her smile.
Today, Miriam is the Chief Executive Officer of Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation, a role she has held since 2011, and a passionate Queenslander whose first love will probably always be tropical North Queensland.
The foundation for her love of all things Queensland is that idyllic first trip back in the 1980s, spending time with her Aunt at restaurants, the beach and Magnetic Island.
“I was hanging out with all the cool kids – the surf lifesavers, hospitality and tourism staff, and the community of Townsville,” Miriam recalls happily, “They accepted me and welcomed me even though I was a science nerd.”
Like many good things, the holiday ended, and Miriam returned to Ireland to complete her study and then worked in London.
But she was not done with Australia and returned to live in Townsville in 1989. She worked at the Townsville General Hospital in the microbiology lab and distinctly remembers having to stand in the cold room to cool down after walking to work.
After also living in Perth and Adelaide, and obtaining her Australian citizenship, Miriam and her family have happily called Brisbane home for the last 20 years.
As the CEO of Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation, Miriam combines her medical research background with the passion and compassion it takes to lead a diverse research foundation. Her commitment to supporting veterans extends beyond GMRF. She is a Member of the Board of Trustees for Commando Welfare Trust, a Director of Cor Infinitus, Adjunct Professor for the University of Queensland School of Medicine and was a Director for Mates4Mates for eight years.
GMRF was founded in 2005 and is committed to enhancing the health and wellbeing of veterans, their families and the wider Australian community by undertaking innovative medical research and translating results into high impact solutions.
Without missing a beat, Miriam immediately starts talking about the people of Queensland and the lifestyle.
“As the CEO of a Not-For-Profit, it is the people who volunteer for us and other NFPs. I am always overwhelmed by the number of volunteers and how those with the least often give the most. People in Queensland also have a great attitude to work / life balance. They don’t seem to rush like they do in other capital cities, although I have a sense this could be starting to change in Brisbane.”
Miriam considers herself lucky to know many of the volunteers and supporters of GMRF from across Queensland who make the research, initiatives and grants, and treatment support possible. She mentions just some who come to mind for their contribution to GMRF during our chat.
“For the last 15 years, wonderful Alma from Toowoomba opened her garden to raise money for GMRF. Even when she passed away at 92, her final wish was that her funeral be a fundraising event for the Foundation.
The Diggers’ Dozen started in 1990 and committed to raising funds for GMRF when it launched in 2005. The average age of the Diggers’ Dozen is now 80, and they are still raising funds, having contributed more than $300,000 to GMRF, all raised through the sale of raffle tickets.
Also, GMRF staff make a significant contribution mentoring emerging academics and researchers.
There are so many others I could mention here – these are just a few great examples.”
Miriam recognises the investment made during the Beattie era to make Queensland the Smart State which now means some of Australia’s leading research institutes are located in Queensland.
“The investment made in these institutes, the research that is happening and the opportunities the research creates are long term propositions that have huge potential for the State. This focus on innovation and entrepreneurship is helping to attract and retain amazing people who are doing cutting edge research right here in Queensland.”
Specific to GMRF and Miriam, the veteran population in Queensland, the largest of any State in Australia, and GMRF’s good relationships with the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defence and related industry participants also make Queensland a great place for business.
“Many of the defence related businesses and companies support the services of GMRF and we see every day the importance of these organisations in employing people who leave fulltime service, and helping them transition into employment and communities.”
“Daylight savings!” exclaims Miriam, “Like many others, I would like to take advantage of the longer evenings that would suit Queensland’s summer lifestyle. An early riser, I get up and go to work so it would be great to have more daylight at the end of my day.”
Miriam also sees opportunities for Queensland to capitalise on the research and innovation that is happening in the State.
“Queensland has been great at investing in the research stage but we are missing out leveraging and translating that research into practical solutions. I have seen great pieces of research ending up on the shelf because there is no funding for the next stage or implementation,” reflects Miriam, “We need to open up funding beyond the research stage into the commercialisation stage of innovation, and that requires a change in mindset to better understand the breadth of investment needed.”
Miriam is enthusiastic about the opportunities for Queensland in the next 10 years.
“There is so much Queensland can do in the lead up to 2032. The challenge will be how to embrace and leverage the right opportunities for the benefit of business, communities, and families.
The Olympics can be a focal point for communities to rally around momentous change in diversity and other moral issues, without getting bogged down in bureaucracy. It is also a time for us to optimise the transition to renewable energy and showcase this for the world.”
As GMRF nears its 20th anniversary, Miriam also sees opportunities for the Foundation after Covid.
Clearly excited about the future, Miriam says, “The next stage for GMRF is growth and raising our profile to leverage the work that has been done since 2005. Our focus continues to be giving back to the Veteran Community and our connection with Greenslopes Private Hospital gives us invaluable access to clinical expertise and patients, and helps us promote the work we are doing.”
Consistently recognising the importance of the community throughout our chat, Miriam knows that their support is vitally important to the success of GMRF, particularly for fundraising, participating in research projects, and helping to share information about the work GMRF does in the broader community.
“It is still Magnetic Island for its beautiful landscape and unspoilt environment. It has a lovely retro feel to it that hasn’t changed since I first visited.”
“Our incredible Patron, Dame Quentin Bryce. She is very committed to the Veteran Community and is an extraordinary role model. She genuinely cares about people, is down to earth and treats everybody equally. I have seen firsthand her tireless generosity, and it is my privilege to know and get to work with her.”
Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation (GMRF) is committed to enhancing the health and wellbeing of veterans, their families and the wider Australian community by undertaking innovative medical research and translating results into high impact solutions.
Founded in 2005 and based at Greenslopes Private Hospital, the former repatriation hospital in Brisbane, GMRF continues the Hospital’s proud tradition of supporting current and former service personnel through research.
Today, GMRF have over 50 experienced staff working across clinical trials, veteran mental health, liver disease and liver cancer, and respiratory illness.
GMRF investigates areas of significant clinical need identified by a multi-disciplinary clinical leadership team. By engaging with individuals, businesses, academic institutions and communities GMRF grows their research and focus on translational research with immediate and meaningful impact. Their research extends from the scientific laboratory to the hospital bedside and out into the community, and the answers touch everyone.
GMRF are also proud to fund initiatives that improve outcomes for patients at Greenslopes Private Hospital, including innovation grants and the Cancer Wellness Program.
Since 2016, Thynne + Macartney has partnered with Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation (GMRF) to donate $175,000 for the Innovation Grants program empowering staff at Greenslopes Private Hospital to use their first-hand experience to enhance clinical outcomes, including:
Established in 1893, Thynne + Macartney has helped people and businesses to build and grow within Queensland and across Australia, as well as navigate the challenges and issues that sometimes arise. Our firm’s history is intertwined with the development of the State, but we haven’t shouted it from the rooftops. It is just not our style.
However, it is not every day that you get to celebrate 130 years of continuous operation and we thought that was something to shout about, but what to say?
Then we realised there must be other people, businesses and charities out there who get on with what they have to do to make Queensland the great state it is – other Great Queenslanders.