Page 769 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 17 March 2015

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It is fitting that in this week of National Close the Gap Day we can honour the life of someone who dedicated much of her life to reducing inequalities in health care and life expectancy. Her contribution through this work was recognised nationally in 2009 through her awarding of the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the ACT community.

Just as importantly—perhaps even more so—the value of her work is shown in the countless lives which have benefited from vital local health services. The depth and emotion of the tributes which have flowed in the past week showed how respected and loved she was in both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

I pay tribute to Aunty Judy as a leader and fearless advocate of equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in health care and in life. I wish to pass on my condolences to her family and friends. Aunty Judy leaves an enduring legacy in our community.

DR BOURKE (Ginninderra) (5.32): I, too, rise to pay tribute to Judy Harris. Many Canberrans celebrated Judy Harris’s life at a requiem mass in Amaroo this morning after she passed away last week. Judy was an elder of the Wiradjuri and Ngunnawal country. She was a mother, a wife and a sister, and I pay my respects to all her family and those who knew and loved her over her life of almost 70 years.

She is widely known in the Canberra community as one of the stalwarts of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service. While Canberra was celebrating its centenary in 2013, Winnunga was celebrating its first quarter of a century. For most of that time Judy served on the board of Winnunga and chaired the board for two decades, only stepping down in December last year due to ill health. Winnunga Nimmityjah grew from a temporary medical service at the tent embassy in 1988 to now managing a budget of over $8 million. Over that time it was located in the old Griffin Centre in Civic, in Wakefield Gardens, Ainslie, and in 2004 it moved to its current site in Boolimba Crescent, Narrabundah.

As chair of the board Judy Harris was integral to Canberra’s own Aboriginal community-controlled health service. Likewise, Winnunga Nimmityjah is integral to Canberra’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. The service is owned by the community and managed by the community, making it a welcoming place for clients seeking its holistic care. Winnunga Nimmityjah is part of a movement that has seen over 130 Aboriginal health services under community control grow up over the last 40 years. The holistic care of humans extends beyond the strict limits of a medical model.

Judy and Winnunga never shied away from taking up causes on behalf of the community and supporting its most vulnerable members. In recent years Winnunga Nimmityjah had taken on commemoration of the stolen generations with the annual Sorry Day bridge walk over Commonwealth Avenue Bridge. The event has grown each year from strength to strength. One of my lasting memories of Judy Harris will be marching next to her on the bridge walk. She took obvious joy in mixing with the young and old members of the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

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