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Part 1: The Whisper That Roared - Fiona's Professional Legacy.

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

"I created my own community and I sat back and I thought, if I don't back myself now, I will never, ever, ever back myself again. And I have to do it. And I also have to have the courage to say out loud, I am the best person for that job. Did I believe it? Not at all. Did I say it out loud? I whispered it. But by the time I finished at Hummingbird House, I roared it."

These are the words of Fiona Hawthorne, the former general manager of Hummingbird House, Brisbane's only children's hospice.

Fiona's story begins not in the quiet halls of a hospice but in the bustling corridors of the Royal Brisbane Hospital. It was there, amid the sounds of beeping machines and the gentle hum of life, that she first slipped into her nurse's uniform, surrendering her individuality to become part of a larger system.

The vibrant colours of Fiona's personal canvas began to blend and merge with the uniform grey of hospital walls and standard scrubs, painting a picture of service and humility.

Her life took a dramatic turn in 1988 with the sudden death of her father. His passing was more than a personal loss; it was a critical junction in Fiona's life, a catalyst that set off a chain reaction of transformation. This heartbreaking event propelled her forward, turning her personal grief into a springboard for growth and change.

In the years that followed, Fiona began to build her community. From clinical nursing, she shifted her focus to nursing education, planting seeds of knowledge and compassion in the minds of future healthcare professionals.

Fiona's Talking Stories Contact Sheet

She didn't stop there. She ventured into genetic counselling, exploring the delicate dance of DNA and its implications for human health. Her journey also led her to roles as diverse as a clinical ethicist and patient safety consultant for the Queensland Government. Each role was a stepping-stone, an opportunity for her to expand her community and refine her approach to service.

Amid her diverse career, Fiona completed her PhD (In this two part blog post, she writes in great detail about her lessons from her PHD) and was awarded multiple Churchill Fellowships, further deepening her understanding of prenatal screening and influence sources. With each academic achievement, she was sharpening her tools, preparing for the challenge that lay ahead.

Yet, for all her qualifications and accomplishments, Fiona's most significant role came unexpectedly, in the form of a casual conversation with Gabrielle Quilliam - the cofounder of Hummingbird House, at a conference. Little did she know then that this seemingly random encounter was a nudge from the universe, pointing her toward her destiny.

It was this encounter that planted the seed for Fiona's future with Hummingbird House, a seed that would grow into a sanctuary of hope for those navigating the murky waters of terminal illness.

It was a commitment that required more than professional expertise or academic knowledge. It demanded a willingness to step into the arena, to build a community from scratch, and to have the audacity to whisper, and later roar, "I am the best person for this job."

Fiona's story is an inspiring narrative of courage, resilience, and the power of community. It's a reminder that leadership isn't just about spearheading initiatives or managing teams; it's about having the courage to whisper before you can roar, to doubt before you can believe, and most importantly, to create a community that not only walks beside you, but also believes in the path you are treading.

Stay tuned for Part II of Fiona's journey.

Listen to Fiona's story here.


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