She taught aqua aerobics to the Saudi royal family, ran a hat business called Shady Business in Saudi and produced documentaries for CNN throughout Asia, Africa and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. However, it was while exploring the Arabian deserts that Birgitta Stephenson rekindled her life’s passion – archaeology.
After graduating from St Aidan’s in 1977 she wanted to go to NIDA, but her parents told her she had to get a degree first, so she looked around and settled on pharmacy.
“I thought I’d do the degree and still go on to NIDA, but that didn’t happen. I graduated, felt obligated to become registered, met Cameron, got married, had children and moved to Saudi Arabia,” Birgitta said.
“We used to take these amazing treks into the desert where I would find beautiful stone artefacts. I used to drive my friends insane talking about these stone tools until a wise girlfriend told me to go back to uni and become an archaeologist – so I did.”
In late 2000, she did Honours and combined pharmacy and archaeology to develop biochemical staining applications for ancient residues. This technique led to the start of her business, In the Groove Analysis Pty Ltd. Birgitta’s work routine can include her being ‘choppered’ and flown around breathtaking sites in Australia including Kakadu, the Pilbara and the east coast of Australia. There are days spent trekking the desert, talking and walking with traditional owners, climbing escarpments and being amazed as the stories meet science. She is also involved with research projects with the National Museum, ARC grants and presents papers around the world.
Her advice to the current crop of St Aidan’s students?
“Stay true to who you are and don’t try to be who everyone wants you to be. Get involved in stacks of stuff at school and don’t lock yourself away to do just the academic. Extend yourself as it’s the additional activities that help you become who you want to be – live your dream!”