In memory of Jane Dixon

11 February 2021

Staff and students at RSPH are saddened to hear of the passing of Associate Professor Jane Dixon (1951 – 2021). Jane was a highly regarded and influential researcher in the sociology and public health sphere, and friend to many at ANU.  

Jane was particularly interested in the cultural dynamics behind ways of living. Her in-depth qualitative research increased our understanding of how corporate strategy, government policy, and civil society can influence cultural transitions, and the resulting social and health inequalities.

“Jane was a big picture person who thought systematically about how different elements fit together and affect each other,” says Cathy Banwell, Deputy Head, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, and close friend of Jane.

Jane, and her work, have been incredibly influential in normalising the consideration of the social and cultural determinants of health in policy development. Indeed, the result of Jane’s work is felt by many Australians today, as she made considerable efforts to inform policies that affect peoples’ lives. How workplace policies influence health is one example, or how the expansion of supermarkets – at the cost of fresh markets – affect the food people eat, and the circumstances of when and where they eat and with whom is another.

Jane was also a respected and trusted collaborator to many.

“Jane was exceptionally widely read and whip-sharp,” says Cathy.

“You could be guaranteed that even when you thought you'd covered all the bases on a particular piece of research, she would come up with something new. Jane was incredibly insightful and pushed people to explore ideas more widely.”

Jane was also a prolific, beautiful and articulate writer, authoring and co-authoring over 200 books and papers. She was also the Chief Investigator on many large grant, and convened numerous conferences. Indeed, recognition of this important and influential work can be seen in her appointment as a visiting professor at the Leverhulme centre in London, to the WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health Knowledge Networks in Urban Settings, and as Associate Fellow at City University’s Food Policy Centres.

While Jane was highly regarded for her rigorous and exploratory approach to research, she was also known for her wonderful personality.

“Jane was very supportive, and had many close friendships here and across the University,” says Cathy.

“She was also enormous fun to be with. Jane was quite loud actually, and you could always rely on her for something quirky, lots of laughter and jollity.”

Jane worked at RSPH from late 1990’s until her retirement in 2016, but remained active in research mentoring staff and students until late 2020. Jane will be sadly missed by all.