Jill Gallagher AO 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, Gallagher has led a major growth in the organisation’s status by working to raise its profile and to position it as the key body in addressing Aboriginal health issues.
In 2010, Gallagher was included in the Victorian Honour Roll of Women and in 2013 she was appointed to the Order of Australia in recognition of her strong and effective leadership in Aboriginal health.
Gallagher’s work was instrumental in achieving bipartisan support for the vital statement of intent – signed by Premier John Brumby in August 2008 on behalf of the Victorian Government – to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians on life expectancy, educational achievement and employment opportunities.
Gallagher believes that for community to achieve its full potential, issues such as health problems must be identified and addressed. Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, governed by community elected boards and dedicated to providing a range of health and community services, are best placed to fulfil the needs of the community and achieve equality of outcomes.
Her direct influence in improving awareness of health issues and access to dedicated services includes developing the comprehensive Well Persons Health Check program which began in 2000 and was run across Victoria, and a Koori Maternity Service program to help Aboriginal women access antenatal services and information. In 2007–2008 about 200 Aboriginal babies were born to mothers who had accessed the program.
As well as tackling health issues, Gallagher is passionate about Aboriginal culture, and Aboriginal culture being valued.
Prior to her work at VACCHO, she was a member of the Museum of Victoria and worked for the return of Indigenous skeletal remains and Indigenous cultural property.
Gallagher 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, and the Premier’s Aboriginal Advisory Committee.