Published: Tuesday 4 December 2012
Ged Kearney is a mother of four (including twins), with an extended family of eight siblings, a company director and the ACTU President. How could she possibly fit yet another thing into her already hectic schedule!
But, as Ged explains, she couldn’t resist taking on her latest role as it combines her greatest passions with supporting a cause close to her heart.
Ged is the new Ambassador of Twins Research Australia, a non-profit service that brings twins and researchers together to undertake health studies to benefit everyone.
As a former health care professional and the mother of twins, she hopes to combine these experiences with her national profile to give back to the multiple-birth community and twin research.
“We are very fortunate to have an ambassador of the calibre of Ged Kearney,” says TRA Director, Professor John Hopper. “We understand the incredible demands on her time already and it is an indication of her generosity of spirit and strong community-mindedness that she has undertaken this volunteer role with us.”
The second youngest of nine children, Ged grew up in the inner Melbourne suburb of Richmond.
She became a registered nurse in 1985, working in acute care in public and private hospitals as well as a nurse educator. She has been an elected official with the Australian Nursing Federation since 1997 and became its Federal Secretary in 2008.
She began her current role as ACTU President in July 2010. She is also a Director of CBUS Superfund.
She has four children - identical twin girls, Bridget and Alexandra, born in 1987, followed by Ryan in 1991 and Elizabeth in 1993.
A whole family approach
Her family and her twin girls have been long supporters of TRA.
“I registered Bridget and Alexandra in 1989 as toddlers with Twins Research Australia when I came across the work of twin research pioneer, Professor Sam Berkovic,” she explains. “I was working at Melbourne’s Austin Hospital where Professor Berkovic was undertaking studies into epilepsy, with the help of TRA
“Twins are able to help researchers to better understand genetic and environmental factors in disease. Most of us don’t realise, but twins are the unsung heroes behind many medical breakthroughs that have benefitted us all.”
Ged and her twins joined their first twin study with Professor Berkovic in 1997. They went on to participate in many more twin studies investigating such diverse subjects as twin social behavior, diet and bone mass, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Although their mum isn’t there to hold their hands anymore, Bridget and Alexandra, now 25, continue to be involved in TRA.
“As a mother of twins, I know that twins are special and it has been very rewarding to give back something that is unique to our family to improve the lives of others,” says Ged.
“I urge twins and their families to join in the amazing twin community that is TRA.”
Sharing multiple birth experiences
As a TRA ambassador, she is looking forward to connecting with other multiple-birth families and to supporting each other.
“Having had twins and singletons, I’m well aware of the challenges of multiple-birth families,” she says. “Twins can be double the joy but also double the challenge and stress.
“It was particularly difficult juggling the demands of work with being a mum to twins and, later, four children,” she says.
“Many of the skills that I use in my work were honed as a parent - managing high workloads, staying calm under stress, good communication and organisational skills.
“I learnt to accept help whenever it was offered. In particular, I was lucky to have amazing support from my partner and extended family, including my five sisters,” she says.
“I think parents of twins and higher number multiples can have a heightened sense of anxiety over the life-steps of their children. These are things that parents of singletons don’t have to deal with, such as shared sleeping and feeding routines, dressing twins, when to separate twins at school and so on.
“You receive a lot of advice as a new mother and even more so as a mother of multiples. But I learnt to trust my instincts and sometimes you have to go against all the advice to do the best for your children.
“When my twins finished prep year at primary school, all the advice pointed to separating them into different classes. But my ‘gut’ said to keep them together in class and we did until the end of primary school. It was the best decision for them.”
Looking at her incredible accomplishments, it is evident these instincts have guided her well in her career and as a mum.