Parry-Fielder, Bronwyn

  • Bronwyn Parry-FielderBronwynParry-Fielderportrait

    Bronwyn was born in October 1944, the second of four girls, to a lawyer father and homemaker mother.  Her childhood was spent living as part of a large family, after her maternal grandparents and aunt joined the household.

    When Bronwyn completed her secondary education, her elder sister, a physiotherapy student, encouraged her to consider applying for the speech therapy course, and so began a long love of the speech pathology profession and in particular speech and language disorders in children.

    Soon after completing the speech therapy course, Bronwyn was offered a position in the multidisciplinary Department of Psychiatry at the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH), where she worked alongside psychiatrists, psychologists, child psychotherapists, social workers and audiologists, stimulating her to think more broadly about the child and family and their environment, rather than just the communication impairment.

    In her early professional years, Bronwyn also worked at the Alfred Hospital and St Vincent’s Hospital and later was appointed Head of the Speech Pathology Department at the Austin Hospital.

    In 1983, the Royal Children’s Hospital had made a decision to move speech pathology out of the Department of Psychiatry and create a separate department.  In November 1983, Bronwyn was appointed as Head of the Speech Pathology Department at RCH, a position she held for 22 years.  For much of this time, she was ably supported by her deputy, John Fisher.

    Until then, the speech pathologists had mainly worked in the Department of Psychiatry, with limited work in craniofacial clinics and in clinics for children with cerebral palsy and other developmental problems.

    Following the formation of the new Speech Pathology Department, the speech pathologists began working in wards and clinics throughout the hospital and joining multidisciplinary research teams. 

     In retrospect, a very modern department was created.  Flexible working hours were introduced and speech pathologists starting families were encouraged to continue working part-time.  Department staff were involved in planning future directions and problem solving.  There was a high level of cohesion in the department, which fostered the accumulation of expertise.

    Speech pathologists with additional academic qualifications (including linguistics, education, neurosciences, infant psychiatry and family therapy), were employed.  Existing staff were given study leave to pursue further related academic qualifications.  There was also a focus on employing staff from different ethnic backgrounds who spoke languages other than English, enabling them to work with families in their first language.  The speech pathologists began to look and sound more like the families who attended RCH.

    This change of focus on academic depth and involvement in research culminated in the appointment of Professor Sheena Reilly, to a research position, shared with La Trobe University. 

    During this time, Bronwyn completed a Master of Educational Studies at Monash and a Graduate Diploma of Health Services Management at RMIT.  Her major clinical interests included the association between epilepsy and speech-language disorders in children and also in childhood apraxia of speech.  She led an NH&MRC-funded research study, published articles in academic journals and gave presentations at international conferences.

    With financial assistance from RCH scholarships, Bronwyn was able to visit speech pathology departments nationally and in the UK, US and Canada, to investigate emerging trends.

    Bronwyn also held the position of chair of the Allied Health Professionals’ Group during 1990-1992 and was the Allied Health representative on the Hospital Executive Committee during 1991-1992.  After this period, an Allied Health Co-ordinator was appointed, and later the Allied Health Division was created.

    Bronwyn has one son and is married to fellow RCH Alumni member, Dr Kevin Collins.

    Following retirement and the pandemic, Bronwyn has enjoyed living part-time at beautiful Sandy Point, in South Gippsland, where she has worked at refurbishing the family beach house, created a garden and studied French and water colour painting, as well as involving herself in the life of the Sandy Point community.