Widow inspires cancer services

Vicki Jellie on Lava Street. Photo Travis Stacey.
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An Australian Local Hero recipient is helping to bring cancer services to Warnambool. Travis Stacey reports.

Vicki Jellie the Founder and Director of Peters Project Foundation and the Australian Local Hero of 2017 recipient is leading her community in bringing cancer services to Warrnambool.

Ms Jellie’s husband Peter died from esophageal cancer in 2008. The hours at his bedside in Melbourne inspired her to action for the local community.

Before the South West Regional Cancer Centre opened in July 2016, locals requiring critical radiotherapy needed to travel 300 kilometres to Melbourne.

“Everyone had to leave home for their treatments, so they were away from their family and support mechanisms,” Ms Jellie said.

Local resident and student Tenysha Murphy said she believes Jellies achievement is inspiration as action should have been taken to improve cancer services in Warrnambool years ago.

“I don’t remember a lot of my childhood apart from being on the highway for my mother’s breast cancer treatments,” Murphy said.

Between Peter’s death in 2008 and the opening in 2016, Jellie and the Warrnambool community held cancer fundraising events to raise $5 million. “I wrote emails, letters and made phone calls for many years to schools, businesses and politicians.”

Cancer Centre in Warnambool, Victoria. Photo Travis Stacey.

Additionally, state and federal governments made contributions of $25 million.

Ms Jellie said: “We had two elections in that time (of fundraising) and both major parties lobbied for the cancer centre. So we utilized those elections to our advantage.”

While Jellie herself believes she is not a hero, her extraordinary efforts were recognized when she was named Australia’s Local Hero for 2017.

“I don’t like the word hero. I’m local but I’m not the hero.”

“Everyone in the community celebrated that had contributed, it was a celebration for the entire community that banding together we can make something remarkable happen.”

Ms Jellie struggled with the media attention and the wider community knowing her personal story.

“Warrnambool people gossip so I found it really hard because I have people that don’t talk to me anymore because they think I’m someone else. I’ve just had to step up into another area.”

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull presented Jellie with the Australian Local Hero award, an experience she will never forget.

“Like who has dinner at government house twice in two years with the Governor and who has drinks with the Prime Minister whether you vote for that party or not, it was a pretty special time.”

For more information about Peter’s Project Foundation visit: https://www.petersproject.org.au/