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Leading sport dietitian Louise Burke reflects on OAM as ‘a team effort’

11 June 2021

Professor Louise Burke OAM was rounding out her second decade as Head of Sports Nutrition at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) when she received a Medal of the Order of Australia.

Professor Louise Burke stands behind a table with sport supplements and papers, while and athlete drinks from a cup.
Professor Louise Burke, when she was working as head of nutrition at the AIS, says receiving a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2009 was recognition of her team's work behind the scenes.

Professor Burke says the award, for service to sports nutrition as a dietician and through academic, research and administrative roles, was a team effort.

“It was a real privilege to receive a Medal of the Order of Australia, but this really was a group accolade. It’s great to see the work we do behind the scenes recognised with this prestigious honour,” she says.

Professor Burke now works at the Australian Catholic University’s Centre for Exercise and Nutrition and is calling on the community to nominate other women who have demonstrated outstanding service to sport for recognition.

“So many aspects of sport are hidden in the background, they’re not the elite athlete standing on the podium accepting the gold medal or even the coach on the sideline. They are supporting athletes by developing new technology or equipment, or tailored nutrition plans so they stay healthy and can perform at their best.

“These people go above and beyond and are continually striving to help our athletes reach their full potential.”

While most of Professor Burke’s work is with elite athletes, she says her research findings can also be applied to community sport which is fantastic to support more young Australians getting involved in sport and building healthy habits to help them achieve their goals.

Professor Burke has authored/co-authored more than 250 peer-reviewed articles and her research is recognised worldwide. She was a founding member of the Executive of Sports Dietitians Australian and was Team Dietitian for five consecutive Australian Olympic teams, from 1996-2012.

However, on reflection, Professor Burke admits her studies focused mainly on male athletes. It’s something she is working to rectify.

“Looking back, my studies mostly involved male athletes because males are easier to recruit. There are more male athletes, and we don’t have to consider female athletes’ menstrual cycles and how that can affect performance,” she explains.

“My new crusade is to have more balance.”

Professor Burke is working on her next Supanova study, which have involved collaborations between ACU, the AIS and Athletics Australia, focusing on male and female race walkers She has also created two new PhD positions that focus on supporting research with female athletes.

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