A HERVEY Bay man has been honoured at the annual Deadly Awards after being named the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker of the Year.
John Corowa, a fighter for indigenous health, was stunned when he heard his name announced during the ceremony at the Sydney Opera House.
The Deadly Awards recognise achievements by indigenous Australians.
John said he was elated just to be nominated.
Winning the award was made all the more meaningful by John's personal journey.
He is the regional manager of the Indigenous Health Tackling Smoking and Healthy Lifestyles and Closing the Gap program. These initiatives aim to improve life expectancy and quality of life for indigenous people.
Closing the Gap is an issue near to John's heart as he lost his father to lung cancer, caused by smoking.
His brother has also suffered health issues from smoking, including bleeding on the brain.
When John first became involved in Closing the Gap, the difference in life expectancy between indigenous and non-indigenous populations was 17 years. It is now 11 years.
The gap is still too wide, John said, but he is heartened by the improvements he has seen in managing chronic diseases such as diabetes.
"We have made more inroads into the management of chronic diseases," he said,
"If you can manage it you can live a longer life and have better quality of life."
To make the night even more special, John's son, Marcus, was also honoured at the Deadly Awards, winning Emerging Artist of the Year, giving the family double the reason to celebrate.
"It's really exceptional," John said.
He said he wasn't nervous until the moment came when the winner was to be announced.
That's when he knew how much the award would mean to him.
John, who has worked in the health system for 15 years, said it was very humbling to receive the award and added that it wasn't just about him, it was also about the exceptional teams he had worked with over the years both in the public and private health systems.
"You can't do it alone," he said.
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