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From cancer genomics to gardening

November 15, 2021

Dr Anne Thompson is having the time of her life. She is a volunteer gardener at Rushall Park, and is loving every minute.

Gardening is a far cry from her professional work from which she retired a decade ago.

Then she was involved in cancer research. Her career began after completing a PhD in the molecular genomics of cancer. Initially working as a laboratory-based research scientist for several years, Anne moved into research management, including clinical trial management where she worked with cancer patients and their families.

In her final years of full-time work, she was the Chief Operations Officer for the ARC Centre for Kangaroo Genomics based at Melbourne University, working with scientists there as well as at the Australian National University and the University of NSW.

She moved back into the cancer area as the CEO of the Victorian Cancer Biobank to work with a team of people based at the major hospitals in Melbourne.

“Our priority was to obtain patient consent to collect and cryostore surplus tissue from their cancer surgery. This tissue was then provided to scientists for research and development of new cancer therapies,” Anne said.

Since retiring, Anne has been involved in local community issues in and around her North Fitzroy home, and more recently as volunteer gardener.

“I saw the position advertised on the Volunteering Victoria website in March 2021 and it immediately appealed,” Anne said.

“Being passionate about gardening and enjoying the company of older people, I thought that this would be a very enjoyable role.”

Shortly after starting last year, Anne had to stop because of the lockdowns. Now, however, she is back at it with gusto.

She loves the work, and especially the mix of plantings, with the older style almost cottage gardens surrounding the earlier dwellings and the more modern Australian style beds near the more recent buildings.

“Our own home was built in 1875 so I have enjoyed restoring the garden with a similar mix of more traditional plantings alongside more drought tolerant plants,” she said.

A bonus has been meeting the Rushall Park residents and sharing stories, as well as improving her gardening knowledge.


“Our home has always been a place where family and friends are welcome.  Our cottage at Rushall Park is no different and the community of friends here is important to us and that’s why their work is part of my art box,” Jennifer Barden said.

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