Back: Jessie George, Ann Morgan, Lesley Kenny, Jackie Ritchie, Joyce Baxter, Amanda Stinton, Jeanette Edwards, Linda Pearce, Sharona Pearce, Brooke Harkensee, Thaliah Wilson. Front: Cheryl Leonard, Helen Morgan, Frank Harrison, and Cath Solomon

It was a special occasion at GEGAC on Tuesday afternoon as community Elder Aunty Helen Morgan celebrated her 80th birthday.

Aunty Helen’s legacy here in our community is huge, having played a key role in the founding of GEGAC, as well as being the very first Koori Hospital Liaison Officer at Bairnsdale Regional Health Service (BRHS).

A banner hanging today at BRHS acknowledges Aunty Helen’s significant contribution alongside other women who played pivotal roles in the provision of health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our local area.

Born in Orbost on June 21, 1943, Aunty Helen went to primary school in Orbost and Numeralla, and remembers even in those early days being inspired by a cause bigger than herself.

“When I grow up and get a job,” she would think to herself, “I want to help my people.”

When Aunty Helen began as the Koori Hospital Liaison Officer in Bairnsdale in 1982, she had a desk in the main hallway of the hospital.

Aunty Helen would go to a patient’s bedside, have a yarn, bring them the paper, do their hair, get their washing sorted and help people feel more comfortable.

“I was kind of a jack of all trades. I worked in the hospital and out to Cann River and Bruthen and everywhere,” Auntie Helen said in an interview with BRHS last year.

“I followed up on medical stuff with the staff at the hospital and I worked with people who didn’t like hospital and sometimes used to sneak out. I’d find them and try to bring them back.”

Her 17 years of dedication to the hospital has been instrumental in helping community feel more comfortable using the hospital’s services.

Today, that legacy is carried on by her son Adrian “Ringo” Morgan, who is a Koori Hospital Liaison Officer at BRHS, part of a five-person Aboriginal Health Unit which was built on the early labours of Aunty Helen’s pioneering days.

Since retiring, Aunty Helen has continued to serve her community, including volunteer work for local kindergartens and schools, United Care Gippsland, TAFE and adult education programs.

Happy Birthday, Aunty Helen, and thank you for everything you have done for our community.

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