Aunty Jill Gallagher AO

Gunditjmara woman Aunty Jill Gallagher has one burning ambition – to develop the capacity of her community to achieve their full potential.

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"It's about how you be inclusive and bring people on to champion your cause, not just the blackfellas of Victoria saying, 'We need this and we need that'. It's about non-Indigenous people standing up and saying, 'This is the right thing to do'" - Aunty Jill Gallagher AO

Aunty Jill is a Gunditjmara woman from western Victoria who has worked within, led and advocated for the Victorian Aboriginal community all her life. Since 1998 this has been through the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), now one of Australia's largest and most effective state Aboriginal peak advocacy organisations. As CEO since 2001, Jill has exacted a major change in the organisation's status, by working to raise its profile and highlight its pivotal role in addressing Aboriginal health issues.

Jill's work was instrumental in achieving bipartisan support for the 'Statement of Intent' signed by the Premier in August 2008 on behalf of the state Government to 'Close the Gap' in Aboriginal life expectancy. Jill says that for her community to achieve its full potential, issues such as health problems must be identified and addressed.

To further this, she developed comprehensive Well Persons Health Checks, which are run across Victoria and a Koori Maternity Services Program, which began in 2000 to help Aboriginal women access pregnancy services and information. In 2007-08 about 200 babies were born to mothers who had accessed the program.

Given that VACCHO is not a service delivery agency, a key focus of Jill's work is linking with other agencies to deliver programs: "We believe if we are going to achieve anything we need to work with others. We try to develop good relationships."

As well as tackling health issues, Jill is passionate about Aboriginal culture, and her people, being valued. "When you look at all the tourism ads for Victoria and Australia, they never talk about Australia having one of the oldest cultures in the world. Why don't we value that?"

Prior to her work at VACCHO, Jill was a member of the Museum of Victoria and worked for the return of Indigenous skeletal remains and Indigenous cultural property. She has also sat on various committees including the Victorian Early Childhood Development Advisory Committee, the Equal Opportunity Commission Victoria Indigenous Reference Group, the Child Death Review and the Cooperative Research Centre on Aboriginal Health.