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Monday, 9 February 2015
Page: 186


Ms O'DWYER (HigginsParliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (12:06): I rise today in support of the Member for Shortland's motion, and I endorse her comments and the comments made by those members present who have spoken on this very important issue. Ovarian cancer, as we know, takes away over 1,000 daughters, mothers, sisters and friends from their loved ones in Australia each year. It takes away one woman every eight hours. By the end of this week, 28 women will have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and, unfortunately, 21 will have died. It is a truly devastating disease.

Sometimes, though, when we hear these figures, it does not bring home the personal impact. Today I want to talk about a friend of mine, her mother and her journey. The mother of this good friend of mine was recently diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer. She is an amazing woman, a much loved wife, mother and grandmother, a good friend to so many, and an amazing volunteer in our local community. Currently, she is on this very traumatic journey. She is receiving excellent treatment and excellent care. But it is her fortitude, her resilience and her zest for life that is an inspiration to all she comes in contact with. Every single one of those statistics is a personal story. That is why it is so important that we discuss ovarian cancer in this place today.

As an ambassador for Ovarian Cancer Australia for over three years, I have spoken many times about how important it is to be familiar with the symptoms of ovarian cancer. I am going to run through them again, because you can never, ever talk about these symptoms enough. There are four key symptoms: abdominal or pelvic pain; increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating; needing to urinate often or urgently; and, finally, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly. The problem, of course, is that these symptoms are very common, and most women do not always recognise that these symptoms can be linked with ovarian cancer. It is critical that, if women experience these symptoms over time and if these symptoms are new to them and persist for more than two weeks, they should consult their doctor and do so as quickly as possible.

We all know that there is a lot of publicity given to other diseases and other cancers. Ovarian cancer is a uniquely women's cancer. Despite the fact that it is the seventh most common cancer in women worldwide, it often gets overlooked. This has prompted Ovarian Cancer Australia to launch a national action plan for ovarian cancer research, an Australian-first agenda that sets out immediate priorities for research in order to make a significant change to the number of women dying from the disease each year. It is a very important plan. For the first time, a national plan has been developed for ovarian cancer enabling a priority-driven focus for investment, unifying effort and providing a blueprint for researchers and funders from around Australia.

As part of the launch of the national action plan, Ovarian Cancer Australia also announced $1 million in funding to support the priorities identified in the plan, which includes $900,000 for a funding partnership between Ovarian Cancer Australia and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the researchers around the country who are dedicating their time to this critically important research, particularly those amazing researchers at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne.

Ovarian Cancer Australia are also again promoting Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month this February, with teal ribbons being sold and Morning Teal events being held around the country. To help raise awareness in my local community I am hosting a Morning Teal on 27 February and I would encourage those across the country to do the same or to wear a teal ribbon to indicate their support. Last year, our morning tea raised over $10,000 for Ovarian Cancer Australia. This money goes to supporting women and their families on their journey, as well as the important research project that will help us find a cure for ovarian cancer. This is a very critical issue facing our community. Ovarian cancer currently has a five-year survival rate of 43 per cent. We want to make a difference to that survival rate. It is through advocacy, it is through research and it is through all of us knowing the symptoms that we will be able to make a change to that.

Debate adjourned.