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Part 2: A Force to be Reckoned With - Fiona's Professional Legacy.

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

There are a few experiences that truly alter the course of one's life. For Fiona Hawthorne, that moment came when shopping for a pair of jeans. It was an ordinary day, standing before the mirror in the dressing room, contemplating the fit of a new pair of denims when she received an unexpected phone call.

The call was from a perinatal neonatologist from Adelaide who wished to present Fiona's Churchill Fellowship report, which advocated for a perinatal hospice, to the Federal Government's inquiry into palliative care.


Without knowing it, Fiona was about to be swept into an extraordinary adventure that would lead to the creation of Hummingbird House.


Coincidences are strange. They appear out of nowhere and can alter the path you're on, often in subtle, mysterious ways.


For Fiona, these coincidences materialized in the form of chance encounters with Gabrielle Quilliam, a woman she met at a conference. Quilliam is a co-founder of Hummingbird House.

Their paths continued to cross over the next two years, fostering a strong bond between them.


Despite being an avowed atheist, Fiona concedes, "Something or someone or some force, I don't know what it was, was putting us in each other's path."


Quilliam would repeatedly offer Fiona the position to lead Hummingbird House. However, Fiona resisted the idea.


Her focus was on perinatal care and she was content with her current role. But life, as it often does, had other plans. Upon being asked to write the job description for the general manager of the proposed hospice, Fiona realized the enormity of the undertaking and stated, “I pity the fool who has this job.”

Her words hung in the air, heavy with the foreboding of a challenge she was yet to fully embrace.


Upon further reflection, and with her husband's candid support, Fiona made the decision that would pivot her career in a direction she'd never anticipated.


She dialed Quilliam’s number and said, " I'm going to break your heart."


When Quilliam asked why, she dramatically responded that the following week, she would not be sitting on the interview panel which she had promised to chair. When Fiona received a dejected response when Quilliam she quietly added, “Because I'm going to apply.”


And naturally, she got the job.


Stepping into the role of the General Manager of Hummingbird House, Fiona quickly realized the gravity of her commitment. The journey was daunting, fraught with sleepless nights and back-to-back meetings.


The challenge was not just to establish a hospice but to make it into a sanctuary of love, care, and support. A place where the often harsh reality of mortality could be met with compassion and dignity. It required not just managing a team but also building relationships with families, healthcare professionals, and the wider community.


Today, Fiona Hawthorn is regarded as one of the forces that brought Hummingbird House to life. In her hands, a once elusive dream transformed into a beacon of hope for countless families. The success of Hummingbird House is a testament to Fiona’s unwavering determination, a tale of resilience and dedication that inspires everyone who hears it.


One of the primary tenets of Fiona's professional legacy is her ability to defy convention and follow the beat of her own drum. Be it questioning the influence of doctors in prenatal screening or championing the importance of a children's hospice, Fiona has always sought to uplift the voices of the vulnerable. She embodies the essence of leadership - a leader who doesn’t just aim to create followers, but empowers others to become leaders themselves.


As she continues to inspire and motivate others through her consulting work, Fiona's narrative adds a vibrant thread to the rich tapestry of pioneering leaders in the field of healthcare. It's a story that echoes long after it’s told, nudging us to ask ourselves – how can we make a difference today?



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