Children need a bright start
Children need a bright start

Australia must do more to help its most disadvantaged children, particularly those from Aboriginal and refugee families, according to WA's new top child health researcher.

Professor Jonathan Carapetis, who took over as director of Perth's Telethon Institute for Child Health Research from founder Fiona Stanley yesterday, said there was compelling evidence to show that children who missed out on access to good health and education early in life faced major setbacks.

"When you're a kid, you're innocent and you have a right to good health, so I don't care what the politics are," he said.

"I just see this enormous need to focus on those kids who don't get the right start to life."

The 50-year-old paediatrician and infectious diseases specialist quit his post at the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin to take up the new job, bringing with him his wife, Sue Skull, a paediatrician researcher, and their two young daughters.

He believes he has taken on the job at an exciting time, as construction begins on a new children's hospital in Nedlands with the institute to move to the same building.

"There are lots of kids living on the margins and we need to be doing more to help them, so I see a strong role between the institute and the children's hospital," Professor Carapetis said.

"People talk to me about how the road that divides them now sometimes feels like a chasm but in the new location researchers and clinicians will be bumping shoulders.

"It will set us up to be one of the leading children's hospital and research campuses in the world."

To help make his mark as new director, Professor Carapetis will also spend time working on the wards at Princess Margaret Hospital to keep up his experience in clinical work.

He said he was already surprised by how well the institute was regarded by the community. "I've really cottoned on to the fact that while it has strong support from institutions and Government it's the community support here that you just don't see in other places which really makes it such a WA icon," he said.

The West Australian

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