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Jill Gallagher, head of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), has been awarded an Order of Australia for distinguished service to Victoria's Indigenous community.
Over the past 12 years, serving as the head of VACCHO, Jill has seen her people face increasingly dire health challenges.
'Chronic disease is a huge problem, tobacco is one of them, diabetes is a huge issue and when you look at Victoria you've got a lot of Aboriginal people living in urban areas who have shocking health problems. The health status of people living in Fitzroy is the same as people living in Fitzroy Crossing, so we have a job to do convincing governments that there are Aboriginal people who live in Victoria who need just as much support', Miss Gallagher told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Asked to list her most significant achievement in her time in Indigenous health, the 57-year-old cites her influence in getting the Victorian government to sign the statement of intent to close the 17-year life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
She says there are many factors, beyond access to health services, that contribute to the disparity.
'If you're going to close the life expectancy gap you've got to look at education and employment opportunities. Anyone whether you're black or white, if you've got a job you're going to be a lot more healthy. My passion is actually for us as Aboriginal people to be recognised and valued as Aboriginal Australians and to enjoy the same benefits that this country offers as non-Indigenous Australians.'
Source: Sydney Morning Herald