Media release: VAHS celebrates five decades of making a difference and saving lives


Friday 18 August 2023

Today marks 50 years since the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service officially opened in 1973.

VAHS Chairperson Tony McCartney reflected on the importance of this date in the history of not only Aboriginal health, but in the Aboriginal rights movement of Melbourne, Victoria and Australia at the time.

“Established by community members, VAHS officially opened on 18 August 1973 at 229 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy – making this day in 2023 a significant milestone not only in Aboriginal health history, but also in Aboriginal rights history and the importance and need for community-control and self-determination.”

“50 years of caring for the community and delivering holistic health services is the foundation of Aboriginal community-control.”

“Since starting from humble beginnings and with volunteers at the small shop front in Fitzroy to a place community members called a home away from home – we have grown into a service with sites across Fitzroy, Preston, Epping and expanding to St Albans in our 50th year.”

As the oldest Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation in Victoria, and second oldest in the country, VAHS CEO Michael Graham said VAHS have been instrumental in self-determined Aboriginal health and wellbeing in Australia since it started.

“Dedicated to delivering culturally safe and life-saving health care to ensure thriving, healthy communities, VAHS has been instrumental in leading the development of Community Controlled Health Organisations across the state and nation, as well as the set-up of peak representative for the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria, VACCHO.”

“Over the years we have achieved many supports and firsts in Australia – including establishing the first Aboriginal dental clinic that travelled around Victoria and to border towns, first Aboriginal women and children’s program and the country’s leading Aboriginal health worker education program Koori Kollij.

The work of VAHS is a testament to Aboriginal Victoria as a whole and the progressive nature of the organisation’s commitment to providing high-quality care for all Victorians.

This year VAHS continues to actively grow its support and services through launching new and strengthening existing partnerships that demonstrate the dynamic range, reach and expansion of the important work the organisation does for community.

“Not only have we opened the doors at VAHS St Albans – in our 50th year we have also launched a justice health partnership with the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, signed an updated Memorandum of Understanding with St Vincent’s Hospital, and launched a partnership with Melbourne Storm.”

“Since establishing in 1973, VAHS has been embedded and connected to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community for five decades – and I’m honoured to come together to celebrate 50 years of caring for community this year to drive the growth of the organisation for generations to come.”

Media contact: Vanessa Morris: / 0400 136 787

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