Jill Gallagher

Victorian Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO)

Jill Gallagher is an Indigenous woman from Western Victoria Gunditjmara country. She is a long-term advocate for Victorian Indigenous people, especially women. For the past 30 years, Jill has provided leadership within the Indigenous and broader communities in various fields including Indigenous health, culture and heritage. Jill worked in Aboriginal Heritage for 20 years and was instrumental in the development and the implementation of the current Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Inspectors training program. Jill has worked for VACCHO since 1998 and has been its CEO for the last 7 years. During her tenure with VACCHO, Jill has made a significant contribution to Aboriginal Health through building partnerships with researchers, health professionals, senior bureaucrats and government Ministers. Under Jill’s stewardship, VACCHO has grown in influence and was recently instrumental in achieving bipartisan support in Victoria for the ‘Statement of Intent’ to close the gap in Indigenous life expectancy.

Who owns my culture and what did they pay for it?

Access to appropriate health care is a human right. In recent years there has been increasing recognition that cultural inappropriateness is a barrier to accessing services. Attempts to address this and to measure progress in addressing it has resulted in widespread organisational attempts to embed requirements for cultural competence in their operations and has created a wave of demand for cultural safety training, frameworks, standards and partnerships and a bigger wave of requests for Aboriginal representation on committees and working groups.

There is no denying that Aboriginal people are entitled to health services that meet our needs, but the current focus on mainstream cultural competency has its costs and could further disadvantage the people who are supposed to gain the greatest benefit from it.

I will focus on contemporary urban Aboriginal culture and its expression in Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations operating in the Australia I live in. This also provides the starting point of a critical reflection on the concept of cultural competence in mainstream health services and its impact on the day to day operations of health services, both mainstream and those which are run by the Aboriginal community for the Aboriginal community.

We ask the questions: what is the result of quantifying culture? What happens when “who I am” becomes a standard, a benchmark or numbers on a page? How is this likely to affect the way mainstream and Aboriginal community-controlled health services work together?



Kitka Web Design