I congratulate Warrnambool’s Vicki Jellie, who was last week named the Victorian Local Hero for 2017. Vicki had a goal: she wanted to carry out the wish of her late husband, Peter, to bring radiation therapy services to Warrnambool so people needing such treatment could stay in their own community, close to their families. She was told it could not be done and would never happen. It is a perfect irony that one of the people who told her that, the then Minister for Health and now Premier, was the one who shook her hand and presented her the award last week.
Vicki did not take no for an answer. She formed Peter’s Project and continued to advocate for the service. She mobilised the community, who backed her every step of the way, but there was still resistance from the federal and state Labor governments. It was not until the election of the Liberal-National government that things started to happen.
My predecessor Denis Napthine listened to Vicky and Peter’s Project. His government understood the need for this service, and the South-West Coast electorate made it happen. The federal coalition government also listened and committed funding. Then the community raised $5 million in just five months — an incredible effort led by Vicky and the Peter’s Project team. The centre has been treating patients for six months now, and already 100 people have received their radiotherapy treatment close to home. But in the time the centre has been open not one member of the government — not the Minister for Health or the Premier — have acknowledged the centre. They have not visited it and have not mentioned it anywhere. What an insult to the people of South-West Coast who fought for this centre. Perhaps they are embarrassed that when the community asked them for help they turned them away and said it would never happen. Well, it happened.