A PHM tribute to Gavin Mooney and Del Weston

29 Dec 2012

The tragic deaths of life partners Gavin Mooney, and Del Weston, on the 20th December, is a huge loss to the progressive health movement around the world. Gavin, a leading health economist and one of the founders of the field of health economics, and Del, who had just completed a PhD on the political economy of Climate Change, were social justice activists associated with the People’s Health Movement for the past decade. They were founding members of the Western Australian Social Justice Network which has been the de facto PHM in that state.  They moved to Tasmania just over a year ago where they continued, their commitment to social justice struggles, both locally and internationally. They were both excited by their move to Tasmania where they were establishing an ecologically sustainable lifestyle in the very beautiful state of Tasmania. Even in the brief time they spent there, Gavin had become involved in launching of the Social Determinants of Health Advocacy Network, and facilitating Citizens' Juries as a more democratic way for people to participate in setting priorities for the health systems. Australia’s health minister Tanya Plibersek said of Gavin : “We have lost a fearless campaigner and advocate for human rights.” In Australia, Gavin and Del  played an important part in defending the rights of Aboriginal peoples and lobbying for health equity. Justin Mohamed, Chair of National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations representing over 150 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations throughout Australia paid tribute to Gavin noting “he will be universally remembered for his passionate advocacy for equity and social justice at local and global levels, for his championing of citizen’s juries, and for his commitment to Aboriginal health.  Gavin’s enduring commitment to improving Aboriginal health is what we will remember him for. He worked at both academic and community levels to assist in advancing  Aboriginal community controlled health services”.

 Gavin and Del  had also spent much time in  South Africa in recent years , engaging with health activists on questions of equitable health care financing, climate justice, and the rights of refugees.  He and Del were deeply affected by South Africa’s liberation struggles and spent much time in the country on a number of visits, learning, engaging, mentoring, sharing and being activists, particularly concerned at the failure of South Africa’s so-called democratic revolution to reduce social inequalities and deliver better health for its peoples. Gavin and Del established important and valued relationships with many colleagues, comrades and activists, particularly from the marginalised refugee communities in Cape Town. They were truly wonderful people who showered others with grace, warmth and assistance, but who were also able and willing to speak uncomfortable truths to power when it mattered – be it in standing up for Aboriginal rights in Australia, or for health equity and climate justice across the world.

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