The Fred Hollows Foundation is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Dr Gordon Briscoe AO - a Foundation Life Member and prominent Aboriginal activist and academic.

Gordon was from the Marduntjara and Pitjantjatjara people of Central Australia and was one of the co-founders of the Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) which opened in 1971.

Four years later, Fred Hollows established the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program (NTEHP) and asked Gordon to be the Assistant Director.

In this role, Gordon oversaw extensive field surveys. His evidence qualified the high incidence of trachoma – opening the world’s eyes to the poverty and disease facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Gordon served The Foundation as a Board member from 1995 – 1999 and was honoured as a Life Member in 2019 for his leadership of the trachoma program and his key role in building The Foundation’s Indigenous Australia Program.

Fred Hollows and Gordon Briscoe in 1981
Photo Credit: The Fred Hollows Foundation

In his lifetime, Gordon made an outstanding contribution to improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

In the 1970s he worked for the Aboriginal Legal Service and later became a land rights activist.

Gordon was also a professional soccer player and the first Aboriginal person to stand for Federal Parliament, running for a seat in the Northern Territory in 1972.

He showed a strong commitment to education and research, becoming one of Australia’s leading academics in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history.

In 1996, Gordon was the first Aboriginal person to be awarded a PhD from an Australian University. He wrote the extraordinary memoire Racial Folly in 2010 about the history of an Aboriginal family who lived under the race laws, practices and policies of Australia in the 20th century.

For his services to Aboriginal health, legal services and education, Gordon was awarded the Order of Australia in 2004.

Gabi Hollows paid tribute to her lifelong friend Gordon, who was Fred’s best man at their wedding and a godfather to their daughter Rosa.

“Our whole family feels very sad about the death of Gordon. He fitted so many things into his amazing 84 years,” Gabi said.

“Along with Charlie Perkins, Gordon was a very close confidant to Fred and an incredible influence on my family, especially after Fred’s death. Gordon’s death, along with the passing of Jilpia Jones in late 2021, is another very big loss for us.”

The Foundation and the Hollows family offer their sincere condolences to Gordon’s family and friends.

Cover photo: Gordon Briscoe pictured at a Fred Hollows memorial event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program
Cover Photo Credit: Mary Tran