Sarah Midgley OAM: from quantum physics to marriage equality

sarah midgley shirleene robinson
Dr Sarah Midgley (left) with her wife Dr Shirleene Robinson. Image: Shirleene Robinson/Facebook

The recent 2020 Honours List saw Dr. Sarah Midgley awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the LGBTIQ communities. QNews caught up with this amazing Australian last week.

With one parent a chemistry teacher and the other a geologist, Sarah Midgley developed a love of science from an early age. Her passion for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) shines through in her conversation.

After growing up in the Hawkesbury area of New South Wales, Sarah undertook studies at both the University of Western Sydney and the Australian National University. However, in 2007, she strayed further afield. She moved to Queensland then to study for a PhD in Theoretical Quantum Physics. The move proved fortuitous because, in Queensland, Sarah met her future wife, leading Australian historian Dr. Shirleene Robinson.

Sarah loved her work in quantum physics and the opportunities it opened up for her. It’s not every job that offers the chance to meet and work with Nobel Prize winners. However, she eventually decided she wanted to work in a field with a more immediate social impact. She switched occupations to data analysis and strategic planning. She said despite the undoubted benefit of quantum physics, she enjoys working in a field that more directly improves people’s lives.

Marriage Equality

During their years in Brisbane, Sarah and Shirlene both became involved in the issue of marriage equality in 2007. Following their move to Sydney, they joined the grassroots movement there. They were invited to join the board of Australian Marriage Equality.

Sarah said her fondest memory looking back to the years-long campaign was of the volunteers.

“So many members of our communities came together behind the scenes to work for this reform. Awards like this actually recognise the contribution of the countless community members who selflessly worked for equality. The support I received along the way will always stay with me. The unsung volunteer heroes of marriage equality made an important and lasting contribution to our communities.”

Sarah also spoke about the importance of the government recognising the contributions of LGBTIQ people with mainstream awards.

“It’s a great thing that our national awards now recognise openly LGBTIQ Australians for their contributions to the country. Honouring members of our communities demonstrates another step on the path toward true equality.”

Sarah said she saw her award for service to marriage equality as a positive message of affirmation to younger LGBTIQ Australians.

“Younger LGBTIQ Australians should know that their relationships are valid, meaningful and also equally deserving of respect.”

The future

Despite the achievement of marriage equality, Dr Midgley said our communities can not yet rest.

“We are now in a critical time. It is a time to be vigilant and to protect the gains we made. We must ensure those gains are not eroded.”

Dr. Shirleene Robinson

Sarah Midgley and Shirleene Robinson married in the UK consulate in 2014. Sarah spoke of her joy at being able to work alongside her wife during the marriage equality campaign.

“Shirleene was there with me every step of the way.

“Her support kept me going.

“I can never overstate the inspiration I took from working alongside my wife at all the key moments of the campaign.

“And the joy it gave us to celebrate together the announcement of the victory of the YES campaign is indescribable.”

Congratulations to Dr. Sarah Midgley OAM on a well-deserved award and thank you for your ongoing service to our communities.

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