Margaret Bright (nee Christie)

Margaret Bright was the first woman to graduate in Agricultural Science at La Trobe University, being part of the original intake in 1968. Among the cohort of 12 that finished the course and graduated at the end of 1971, there were two women, Margaret and Wilma Ord. Margaret came from a farming family in Wantirna South (and later in Kilmore), which was then open farm land. She was the first in her nuclear family to go to university.

She went on to complete a Master of Science at University of Melbourne in reproductive endocrinology before starting a family and moving to the country.

After raising five children she re-entered the workforce in north east Victoria, working on a regional agribusiness development plan, a municipal public health plan, providing community development support within the Alpine Shire, and preparing a flood recovery plan after the 1993 floods. Additionally, she was involved in a landcare environment action plan, designed to engage unemployed young people with an opportunity to develop skills and improve job readiness. She was a volunteer literacy tutor and contributed in other ways to community life through church and kids’ sports.

After the family moved to Brisbane in 1998 she began working for the Queensland Department of Health in an epidemiology role, focussing on regional health investigations and contributing to the beginning of state and regional health status reports. After almost 20 years working in the Department, and with ambition, training, and hard work, she is now the Manager of Epidemiology in the Preventative Health Branch, having had the benefit of a significant professional mentor along the way and multiple opportunities to contribute to the wider agenda in public health. She has been a major contributor, and more recently lead author, of the highly regarded and recognised biennial Queensland Chief Health Officer report. These reports provide insight into key and emerging health issues in Queensland and are used to support and inform high-level strategic planning. Her work on this report and more broadly her contribution to chronic disease epidemiology was recognised in the 2017 Queensland Government Australia Day awards.

Margaret looks back on her days at La Trobe with great fondness. It was a thrilling place to be in those first five volatile years of the University’s life. In those days, the Ag. School was family not faculty. In fact she recalls the time when the three or four academic staff and all her year gathered in Wilma Ord’s family living room, around the television, to watch the first moon landing. Prof Reid used to entertain the students at his place in Eaglemont. He was a great teller of stories and embarrassed his daughter on more than one occasion by insisting she recite Robbie Burns’ poetry (he had come home to Australia to pick up the Professorial role after a long stint doing research in Scotland). Margaret reflects on the value of her time at La Trobe…the robust, practical science that was the foundation of her degree has been a bedrock for endeavours since: 50 years of a diverse working life from laboratory research to community development and consultation and back to science, data and health. A rewarding journey that is not yet finished. She considers herself to be extremely fortunate to have been provided with these many opportunities and to have a family with the love and support they provide.