THE FIGHT OF HER LIFE – JILL EMBERSON
Introduced by Olympic swimmer Nicole Livingstone
When ABC broadcaster Jill Emberson was told she had ovarian cancer, she opted to go public and go loud.
Enraged by the knowledge that her disease is the deadliest of all women’s cancers, with little improvement in survival rates or treatments for decades, Jill decided to channel her expertise into advocating for more awareness and funding.
“I need to be a voice,” Jill tells Australian Story. “With ovarian cancer, women like me literally don’t live long enough to form the army of advocates our breast cancer sisters have done so successfully.”
A popular presenter on ABC Newcastle’s morning radio, Jill told her listeners soon after she was diagnosed in early 2016.
She visited science labs and led street protests, arming herself with information and rallying support. Despite her cancer returning within a year and spreading to her brain, she continued to live her disease publicly in the hope she could secure a better deal for research funding.
“She was not going to go down without a fight,” says Ovarian Cancer Australia patron Nicole Livingstone. “And she’s going to make a difference for generations to come.”
Australian Story follows Jill to the offices of the Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, a National Press Club address and finally a passionate plea to Prime Minister Scott Morrison. And behind the scenes, to hospital corridors and her home where Jill is sustained by GP husband Ken and her daughter Malia.
Born to a Pacific Island father and Irish Catholic mother, Jill felt the sting of casual racism as a child and was drawn early to social justice activism. Her return to activism later in life comes as no surprise to friend and fellow journalist Monica Attard.
“I didn’t expect her to go quietly. And I’m not at all surprised that she’s used the advocacy as a coping mechanism,” Monica Attard says.
Now in the fight of her life, Jill’s time might be short but she’s not going quietly.
Producer: Amanda Collinge
Australian Story: Monday, September 9, 2019 at 8pm AEST on ABC