Australia Day Honours 2018: Hunters Hill’s Gail O’Brien receives AO for her work in cancer treatment and research

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THERE are many Hunters Hill residents who can say they’ve seen a dream come true but few in the profound and life-changing way of Viret Street’s Gail O’Brien.

Gail is the wife of the late cancer surgeon Dr Chris O’Brien and their shared vision of a Comprehensive Cancer Centre became the stunning Chris O’Brien Lifehouse building in Camperdown, when it was opened in 2013.

This incredible complex provides a complete range of services for cancer patients and their families in a holistic environment unique in the world.

“Chris and I worked together fundraising for this since 2002 because we believed that, in the care of patients and their families, the system didn’t do it well.” she said.

“When Chris died the whole vision could so easily have been stalled and I didn’t expect to be involved further so I’m in an incredibly privileged position.”

Gail O’Brien has now been awarded an Officer AO in the General Division of the Order of Australia.

Her citation dedicates her award for being “an advocate for, and supporter of, cancer sufferers and their families through comprehensive research and treatment programs.”

“I’m an advocate not just for patients but for our staff as well and things like being involved in pharmacy and research really opens your eyes about the wonders of research and how we are producing our own drugs at our own pharmacy,” Ms O’Brien said.

“This is why I consider my award to be a recognition of everyone here.”

With a record of 15 per cent better outcomes in comprehensive cancer, it disappoints Gail that there is a lack government funding for Chris O’Brien’s Lighthouse, in
contrast to the generosity of donors and the contribution of private patients.

“Millions of taxpayer dollars are put into football stadiums and entertainment venues and my hope and my prayer is that governments will support us and that the
financial burden so many people worry about will be alleviated.”

Donations are accepted with deep appreciation.

“We recently raised five million dollars in five months with no burden on the taxpayer .. a tremendous achievement,” she said.

“My other hope and prayer is that we will have Chris O’Brien Lifehouses in every part of the state and in every part of the country.”

An integral part of Chris O’Brien’s vision was that this place of care, compassion and hope should be accessible to all Australians, regardless of means.

“The whole idea of holistic care for all developed through Chris’ illness,” Gail O’Brien said.

“Cancer is not an easy journey and not everyone will survive it but hope is such an important part of the journey.”

Gail O’Brien has devoted her life to the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and works an astounding amount of hours there each week. “When I get home I love walking with my dog through Hunters Hill, by the water and through Kelly’s Bush, it is a very, very special place.” Gail has been a Director of the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, Comprehensive
Cancer Centre since 2009.

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