Jilpia undertook her general nursing training at Cairns Base Hospital from 1962 to 1966, but before she could be accepted into nursing she had to produce her birth certificate from Western Australia. This was impossible, as Jilpia had been born in the desert in the 1940s, and instead of registering Jilpia's birth with the state government her father had recorded it in the station horse book.
Jilpia is a Walmadjari woman born through the Aboriginal traditional birthing practice in the Great Sandy Desert of the Walmadjari nation. Jilpia was removed from her mother at the age of five and taken to another country called 'Queensland'. Jilpia not only learned English but survived to graduate in general nursing, midwifery and ophthalmology. Through her nursing work and together with the other activists she helped to establish the first Aboriginal community controlled medical service in Sydney.
Later, because of her work throughout Australia with the late Professor Fred Hollows on the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program, Jilpia won a Churchill Trust Scholarship to study and work at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. In 2001 she was awarded the Centenary Medal for her volunteer work in Indigenous welfare. In 2003, Jilpia graduated from the Australian National University with a bachelor's degree, majoring in political science and history.
Today, Jilpia is on the ACT Sentence Administration Board and sees her role as being a strong social activist advocating for the rights and social justice of Aboriginal people. In 2007 she was recognised by her people as a Traditional Owner of her country by birthright.
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