Professor Trang Thomas AM

Professor Trang Thomas AM has made her life work ensuring the community and governments understand the challenges of recently-arrived migrants.

Honour Roll

Australians from non-English speaking backgrounds and recently-arrived families face unique challenges. As one of eight children in a family that fled from war-torn Vietnam in the 1960s, Trang knows what marginalisation feels like. Her determination to improve the mental and physical health of migrants has seen her become both a campaigner for improved social services and a respected advocate for tolerance.

Despite her limited English, Trang achieved a degree in psychology in 1969. As with many women, she has had to balance family commitments with her academic career. She gave up lecturing when her first child was born, but returned to study after a 12-year break, doing her PhD while working and raising two children. Her prolific research career has focused on improving migrant health. Testament to this is more than 100 articles, keynote presentations and conference papers on ageing and migration. As the chief investigator for many major research projects she has passed on her passion for migrant health issues to students and fellow staff.

Trang was the first woman professor at RMIT University and was appointed to the National Health and Medical Research Council in 2001. She was also the first woman to chair the Victorian Multicultural Commission in 1993 where she played a lead role in an inquiry into the adequacy of Victorian Government services for non-English speaking people. Trang has also served on the board of SBS and more recently, as Assistant Human Rights Commissioner, helping to conduct an inquiry into children in immigration detention centres. In 1997 she was made a Member of the Order of Australia for her research in the areas of aged care and ethnic affairs.

Trang was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of Canberra in 1998, where she argued for a republic where all citizens, Australian or foreign born, have equal rights. She also served on the National Council for the Centenary of Federation for five years, coordinating events for the celebration. Her aim is "to be a source of inspiration to young women, especially those of non-English speaking backgrounds".