Professor Mike Daube AO

Mike Daube is Professor of Health Policy at Curtin University, where he is Director of the Public Health Advocacy Institute and the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth.
October 2015
Each issue we ask someone from the alcohol and other drug sector to share a little about their work and life.

This weekend I will... have one dinner with my son and his wife, two naps, and four walks with the dog; watch the Eagles and Dockers win convincingly; try (and fail) to catch up on all the work I didn’t get done during the week; and fly out to conferences overseas.

I wish I'd never... agreed to do the next talk, write the next article, review the next journal paper, chair the next committee meeting, do the next 4 a.m. Sydney radio interview, speak at the next conference, do the next trip, write all those lists of things I need to do...

I'd originally planned to work... as an academic in English literature. When I was at an English public school (equivalent of an Australian private school) there wasn’t the vast range of wonderful university courses that we have now. The  “careers master”, a former army colonel, told me that for someone reasonably bright the only option was to teach. So I started a course in English, not realising that this would entail a huge focus on Old English, which I found about as interesting as watching grass grow or listening to Steve Allsop’s jokes. Then I went to work in industry as a Graduate Management Trainee in part of the UK National Coal Board, from which I learned how to drive the Managing Director’s Rover. Fortunately, after that I saw a job advertised with SHELTER (the National Campaign for the Homeless), where the first question at interview was how much of a salary cut I would  be willing to take, and where the dynamic CEO gave me a splendid pep talk on the first day that ended with the words “and remember – the door to my office is always open” – after which he closed the door.

The qualities I most value in my colleagues are... integrity, work ethic, enthusiasm, sense of humour, patience, tolerance of my many failings, willingness to buy me coffee.

I'll never forget... the days when my memory was so good that I could remember everything I’d read and the name of everyone I’d ever met. More seriously, I will never forget the example and mentoring I received from campaigners in other areas; the kindness and support of the senior doctors and bureaucrats who supported me early in my career; the wonderful friends and colleagues who have been such a crucial part of my life; the people at all levels of government and other areas (including some wonderful philanthropists) who understand the importance of real prevention and do everything they can to help; the sheer nastiness with which some industries and their supporters attack individuals who threaten their interests; but by contrast the people who phone, call in or come up to me in the street to thank me because they are still alive as a result of my work.

If I had more time, I'd... take the dog for more walks; write all the papers, reports and books on my lists; do more to help and mentor others.

I'm most scared of... being reminded of all the things I have promised to do. Losing the passion to make things happen.

For my next holiday... I’m hopeless at holidays. A holiday is time when you go to the office without a tie or work from home. I spent my childhood being dragged around museums, art galleries and tourist sites... I reckon that the older you are, the more driven you get – and when you get to 67, you become increasingly conscious that there is only limited time in which you can make a contribution.

I can't get enough of... Bendicks Bittermints, After Eights, Kit Kats, good coffee (long black with a dash of cold milk, please).

I'm really terrible at... most practical things. Cooking. Parking. Relaxing. Exercising what my friend Rob Moodie calls the “no muscle”.

Career wise, I’m most proud of... the colleagues I have been privileged to work with, and those I have been able to support and mentor; many developments here and elsewhere across tobacco control, despite massive (and often vicious) opposition; helping to develop and promote new approaches to a range of public health issues. But above all, getting to know and work with so many wonderful people.

My big hope for the drug and alcohol sector is... that it will continue to attract new, energetic and committed people.

The sector's biggest challenges going forward are... to be outward-looking; to support prevention as well as much-needed treatment and services; to ensure that there is a strong focus on disadvantaged groups such as Aboriginal people and people with mental health problems; to stay courageous.


Professor Mike Daube is Professor of Health Policy at Curtin University, where he is Director of the Public Health Advocacy Institute and the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth. Before this he was Director General of Health for Western Australia and Chair of the National Public Health Partnership. 

Professor Daube is President of the Australian Council on Smoking and Health, Co-Chair of the National Alliance for Action on Alcohol, Patron of Local Drug Action Groups Inc., and chair or member of many other boards and committees. He was previously President of the Public Health Association of Australia, Deputy Chair of the National Preventative Health Taskforce, and Chair of the Tobacco Expert Committee that recommended plain packaging and other measures.

Professor Daube has been active in health policy, tobacco control, alcohol and other areas in public health nationally and internationally for more than forty years. He has published widely and received numerous awards from organizations including the World Health Organization, the Australian Medical Association, the National Heart Foundation, the American Cancer Society’s Luther Terry Distinguished Career Award and many others. He is an Officer in the Order of Australia (AO).