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Monday, 26 October 2009
Page: 7140


Senator ADAMS (9:56 PM) —I rise this evening to also talk on Pink Ribbon Day, the national breast cancer day. It is a time to raise awareness and to reflect on the impact this disease has on our community. It is vitally important that we continue to show our support for women with breast cancer, during the month October and throughout the rest of the year. Each day, 36 Australian women will be told that they have breast cancer and seven women will lose their lives to this disease. Breast cancer is the most common invasive cancer amongst Australian women and continues to steadily increase, with 14,800 women expected to be diagnosed in 2011.

There are four main breast cancer organisations in Australia and this often can lead to confusion in the community as to what each of these organisations does and what their role is. We are increasingly swimming in a sea of pink during breast cancer month—which is fantastic—however, we must also use this opportunity of increased awareness to ensure we are getting the message right and to maximise the value of the funds which are being raised.

I would first like to speak about Breast Cancer Network Australia, which is depicted by the pink lady silhouettes which you will have seen in the fields of women. They also have mini fields of women, which I had the privilege of organising in my own hometown of Kojonup. Today I wear the pink lady silhouette survivors broach, which I am very proud of. As a breast cancer survivor I really felt it was very important to speak this evening about the wonderful things that are being done and to give hope to all those people who have been in the same situation as me.

Breast Cancer Network Australia is the peak national organisation for Australians who are personally affected by breast cancer. Before I entered parliament I was one of their consumer participants and worked very hard to raise awareness of breast cancer. Breast Cancer Network Australia prides itself on empowering, informing, representing and linking together people whose lives have been affected by breast cancer. It works to ensure that women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, and their families, receive the very best information available and the best treatment, care and support possible—no matter who they are or where they live. This ready support and care base is an invaluable resource for people confronted with the traumatic experience of a breast cancer diagnosis.

Breast Cancer Network Australia’s free resources, the ‘My Journey Kit’ for women with early breast cancer and the ‘Hope and Hurdles Pack’ for women with secondary breast cancer, are great practical examples of how women can support each other and help those women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. I am proud to be a member of Breast Cancer Network Australia, which is a major force in Australia and is driven by women with breast cancer. BCNA demonstrates that women can be empowered through their journey and that they can use this strength to assist, support and advocate for other women.

After being diagnosed with early breast cancer in 1998, last Christmas I was re-diagnosed with metastatic breast disease. Just to say how difficult it is, your whole world is turned upside down. But I think the support of Breast Cancer Network Australia and all the support of my friends and my colleagues here has given me the opportunity to really get up and fight and think about where it is all going. I have a quote here which I think is really good:

Diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer is not the end of the road. It is the start of a new journey. Some days you will be filled with fear and uncertainty. This is to be expected. Honour your feelings—they are valid—and always remember tomorrow is another day. Do not let anyone take away your hope. Remember you are not a statistic or a number but a woman alive and kicking.

I certainly hope that I can reflect that saying, which was from a breast cancer survivor, a member of Breast Cancer Network Australia.

I would now like to speak about Pink Ribbon Day. This is an emblem of the National Breast Cancer Foundation. They are a community funded organisation which leads the way in raising money for research into the prevention, detection and treatment of breast cancer. They have funded an astounding $55 million worth of research across 230 programs since 1994. This year the National Breast Cancer Foundation are participating in celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Global Illumination initiative. I am sure a number of you will have seen all the different landmarks illuminated in pink during the month of October. Along with raising funds for vital research, Global Illumination is a unique way to shine the spotlight on breast cancer, linking countries around the world in a shared desire to find a cure. This year, over 200 landmarks around the world have been illuminated pink as part of Breast Cancer Month.

Australia has led the Global Illumination celebrations, and the diversity of pink monuments shows how widely breast cancer affects communities. Monuments have been lit up pink across Australia, including Parliament House here in Canberra, the Story Bridge in Brisbane, Federation Square in Melbourne, the lifeguard tower on Bondi Beach and Kings Park in Perth. Other landmarks in my home state of Western Australia that have been lit up in pink are the big Perth Wheel on our foreshore, Perth Concert Hall, Winthrop Hall at UWA and the Swan Bells. Global Illumination raises awareness along with raising funds vital for breast cancer research, leading to improved treatment options and better outcomes for women.

As time is rushing on, I would like to speak about the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre. It started as the National Breast Cancer Centre in 1995 and gained the additional remit of ovarian cancer in 2001—and a number of senators were very involved in making this happen through our community affairs committee. Next year will be the 15th year of this important Australian cancer organisation, which predominantly receives its funding from the federal government. Additional funding comes from corporates and the National Breast Cancer Foundation, which I have just spoken of. Small amounts of funding come from donations and time limited government and other agency grants. However, approximately two-thirds of current resources are from core government funding. Dr Helen Zorbas described to Senate estimates last week the work that the centre is doing, and I would suggest that people have a look at that transcript, because it is absolutely amazing to see where it has come in the short time that it has been in existence.

I would also like to speak about the McGrath Foundation. They have done a magnificent job of raising funds to build a network of breast care nurses throughout Australia and, most importantly, in rural areas of Australia. Breast care nurses are specially trained registered nurses who act as patient advocates. They coordinate care for women with breast cancer, their families and their carers and provide accurate information, support and referral to services. Each McGrath breast care nurse is employed full time at a cost of approximately $350,000 over a minimum three-year period. The network is continuing to grow and is a vital service to rural women with breast cancer. Jane McGrath was aged 31 when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer, and to echo her words:

Breast cancer doesn’t care how old you are, where you live, whether you’re a career woman or a mother.

On that, I think I will finish.