Aunty Jill Gallagher OAM is a Gunditjmara woman and Elder 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.
Aunty Jill was among the signatures to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, written by delegates to the First Nations National Constitutional Convention in 2017, which served as the basis for the referendum and for the first time constitutional recognition of Australia’s first nations.
Proposed changes to the constitution essentially say in part “the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government” on issues that affect them.
Aunty Jill said the relatively close result in Victoria was a small consolation. Some 47 per cent of Victorians had voted Yes and 53 per cent of the state voted No as of 9.35pm, with 61 per cent of the vote counted.
“Tomorrow we still do what we need to do. We are resilient communities, our people have survived 230 years of abuse and no power, and we will continue to survive that and do the best we can,” she said.
She says non-indigenous Australians should not feel any guilt about past atrocities committed against Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders who inhabited the continent for 60,000 years before European settlement.
“I just hope that future governments or present-day governments come up with a way forward.”