Philanthropy Manager Rebecca Harford has a passion for both medical research and philanthropy so she has found working at Murdoch Childrens Research Institute is a match made in heaven. Lise Taylor reports.


rebecca harfordAre you doing what you wanted to do ‘when you grew up’?

I wanted to be a nurse like my mum but considering I faint at the sight of needles that career path was never going to be the one for me. Fortunately, I’ve still landed in the medical field in research, which is exciting, and I get to play a part in improving the health and wellbeing of our community. Aside from that I wanted to be on a precision driving team but my husband thinks that’s a stretch!

Tell us about the work you do.

Most of my time is spent grant writing, specifically for trusts and foundations that don’t have a scientific review committee. My role is to translate the work that our researchers are doing into simple language so it is meaningful to the trustees and committees that are considering the applications we submit.

The Institute has over 60 different research groups and there are hundreds of projects going on at any one time. Applications can take weeks to write and it often involves a lot of research and reading on my part to really understand the work before I can start an application.  

One of my unofficial roles at the Institute is as ‘tour guide’. Aside from showing our donors around the Institute and speaking to them about our work, I also support our director when we have special visitors. In the past two weeks we’ve welcomed both the State and Federal Ministers for Health, the Governor of Victoria and the Governor General to the Institute – it’s been a great start to the year!

What are your future goals?

I’m addicted to medical research. The possibilities are mind blowing so I can’t imagine moving away from the field. I also love working with people, encouraging philanthropy, connecting people with projects they feel passionate about and then making them part of our research journey.

In the future I can imagine myself leading a fundraising team as head of department but all in good time. I have a curious mind so given half a chance I would work with one of our research groups – I completed a Bachelor of Applied Science at university so it’s not an impossible dream. Maybe one day there will be a publication with my name on it.

What is the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you?

Years ago, I dressed up in a giant bear suit at a public event. Aside from being incredibly hot to wear, it was difficult to see through those eyes. My minder got distracted and I was toppled over by some overzealous children looking for a giant bear cuddle! It’s fair to say I looked like a beached whale in the bear suit, but I did manage to keep my head on while I was rescued and returned to an upright position.

Tell us something unexpected about yourself.

I started at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute working as a temp in finance.


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