She graduated as a general nurse from Royal Adelaide Hospital (1976) and subsequently trained as an intensive and coronary care nurse (1978). She completed a Diploma of Applied Science at the South Australia College of Advanced Education (1982) and was awarded professorial status in the departments of nursing at Flinders University in 2000 and University of South Australia in 2015.
Brenda has held several senior leadership positions in the not-for-profit sector and health industry including, Chief Executive, Cancer Council SA (2003- 2015); Executive Director Nursing and Patient Services, Flinders Medical Centre (1995-2003), Executive Director of Nursing, Lyell McEwin Health Service (1994-1995) and Director of Nursing (1992) and Chief Executive (1993 -1995), Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre. She was appointed charge nurse of the cardiology unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (1982) and has worked in London at Guys and the London Hospitals.
While Chief Executive at Cancer Council SA, Brenda was appointed by the Health Minister as the inaugural Chairman of the Cancer Clinical Network (2008-2010) and worked with several key individuals during this period to produce the first State-wide Cancer Control Plan for SA.
She was a volunteer surveyor for the Australian Council on Health Care Standards for 10 years, (1995 to 2005) which examines the standards of practice and service delivery in major teaching and private hospitals in Australia against a set of key criteria.
She is a volunteer mentor for the Australasian College of Health Service Executives mentoring program and was awarded the Gold Medal for her leadership role in the College in 2015.
She is the Patron of Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer (FCIC), Patron of the Australian College of Health Service Managers and Patron of the United Nations of Australia (SA Division).
Brenda is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (FAICD), a Fellow of the Australasian College of Health Service Executives (FCHSE), a Fellow of the Australian College of Nursing (FACN) and a Graduate and Fellow of the Wharton School of Management (FWSM), Pennsylvania USA.
She also holds a Bachelor of Business (BBus) and a Master of Business Administration (MBA).
She was the Winner of the (2000) Telstra SA Business Women’s Award for Corporate and Government Sector, South Australia and the (1999) Johnson and Johnson Wharton Fellow for Executives Program in Management.
Her current board positions include Director ACH Group (2014); Director ACHA Health (2016); Director State Opera SA (2017), Member Northern Adelaide Local Health Network Governing Council (2010); and Flinders University Council (2015). She is a former Director of the University of South Australia MBA Advisory Board, and Board Director Burnside Hospital (2003-2011) and the Hutt Street Centre (2015-16).
Brenda was appointed as the first female Lieutenant Governor of South Australia in 2014.