Professor Rebecca Ivers hailed as Australia's top female innovator

Professor Rebecca Ivers has been hailed as Australia’s top female innovator, in The Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence Awards.

Professor Ivers is the head of The George Institute for Global Health’s injury division, is a Professor at The University of Sydney, and is published widely in peer reviewed literature as a leading expert in unintentional injury in Australia and internationally. She has diverse expertise including road safety, driver licensing, prevention of falls, and injury prevention and treatment of injury in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including burn injury. She is a passionate researcher and public health advocate who joined The George Institute in 2000.

The awards recognise 100 of the most influential women across ten categories including Innovation, Philanthropy, Diversity, Public Policy and Social Enterprise. They were presented by NSW Premier Mike Baird and WA Senate Minister assisting the Prime Minister for Women Michaelia Cash.

Professor Ivers said: “To be acknowledged amongst a group of high achieving, impact driven and well regarded women is truly a humbling experience.

“I am absolutely privileged to work with a remarkable group of people, and for an organisation that values all of its staff for what they can achieve, in the area of both injury prevention and wider public health issues.

“Unintentional injury is the leading cause of death and disability in young people globally, however over the past ten years we have seen a diminishing investment in programs and policy positions. I hope that through this award, a light can be shined on all the work being done in this area, and encourage Governments to reconsider the investment they make in preventing future injuries,” said Professor Ivers.

Among innovations for which Professor Ivers is responsible is Driving Change, a community-based Aboriginal driver licensing support program, across 12 sites in NSW. This end-to-end program delivers a range of services, from assistance with identification documents, to debt management and learner driver mentor services.

“As licensing is a critical access point for education, employment and health care, this intervention has the potential to impact on employment and incarceration rates amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth, as well as lead to significant changes in licensing programs across Australia.”

Coming at end of a big week for Professor Ivers, during which the Government announced Professor Ivers had won a grant of more than $1 million for one of her research projects, and she was responsible for her team being admitted as a member of the UN Road Safety Collaboration, she said public recognition of achievements was important as a way of sharing stories and encouraging other women to have a go. “Everyone has a different experience of moving through the hierarchy. It’s a battle for all women, and for people to understand that it’s not easy for anyone is important.”

“It is critically important that we examine the number of women in leadership roles in Australia and globally. Women are more likely to be working in roles were they are undervalued and underutilised, less likely to trumpet their success, or to put forward opinions. This needs to change, and we need to be more confident in speaking out.”

Professor Robyn Norton, Principal Director of The George Institute for Global Health, reflected on Professor Ivers’ enormous influence not just in Australia, but around the world.

“With women still underrepresented at the highest levels of academic leadership, Rebecca's success as a globally influential injury researcher and leading public health figure should be acknowledged and celebrated. Her commitment to supporting up and coming researchers, particularly those with limited access to education and professional opportunities is particularly commendable,” said Professor Norton.

“Criticism has sometimes been leveled at public health research projects for taking a 'fly in, fly out' approach, entering communities and then leaving without building local capacity, however Professor Ivers’ work has built partnerships and capacity from the ground up, and will have a significant and lasting impact, in no small part as a result of her commitment to sustainability and capacity building.”

“As researcher, partner, mother and colleague, Professor Ivers is truly a woman of influence” said Professor Norton.