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Monday, 19 September 1994
Page: 870


Senator NEAL —My question is directed to the Minister for Family Services and Minister representing the Minister for Human Services and Health. Can the minister please inform the Senate what the federal government is doing to support Australia's Breast Cancer Day? What does she expect the day, the first Breast Cancer Day, to achieve?


Senator CROWLEY —I thank the honourable senator for her question because today is a very significant step towards increasing the system and support for people with breast cancer. Today is the first ever Australian Breast Cancer Day. We know how serious this disease is. Every day, it is estimated that six women die of breast cancer. That means that every day six families are shattered by the death of women in the family. We know that women have a one in 15 chance of developing breast cancer. I believe there is a fairly united and agreed position that breast cancer is one of the most serious causes for concern that governments should be looking at in terms of protecting women's health.

  We still do not know what causes breast cancer. There is certainly a difference of opinion about what is the best treatment. That is why this government's program for breast cancer is so comprehensive and why this day joins that program as a very significant extra part of the link. The Commonwealth government has provided funding of $150,000 to assist with the costs of this first Australian Breast Cancer Day. What the day will do is twofold. Firstly, it will focus on breast cancer and the importance of increasing research. Secondly, it will encourage the community to contribute to fund raising for breast cancer research, because as well as providing money for the day, the government is prepared to match each dollar raised with another dollar, up to $1 million a year from the community.

  We want to provide the community with information about the incidence of breast cancer, early detection of the disease and alternative and better ways of treatment, as well as the benefits of breast cancer screening. In establishing this breast cancer day, I also have to announce that today the Minister for Human Services and Health, Dr Lawrence, announced a further major initiative: the establishment of the Kathleen Cunningham Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which will raise funds for further research by joining public funding with private funding.

  The patron of that research foundation will be Mrs Annita Keating. I am delighted that she is so willing to put her support behind this very important area. The foundation is named after Kathleen Cunningham, a little known pioneer who helped establish the breast cancer clinic at Sydney's Rachel Forster Hospital in 1950—one of the many unsung heroines around this country. It will be a very good thing that we acknowledge her contribution through the naming of this foundation.

  The federal government has pledged $1 million a year for three years to this foundation and is prepared to match up to $1 million for every dollar raised by things like the first ever breast cancer day and other ways in which funding can be raised. This government's contribution to breast cancer research has been very significantly increased, particularly over the last budget. We have a comprehensive program of managing breast cancer—not just increased research funding but also increased funding for raising more dollars for research and, in particular, looking at better ways in which we can make sure that treatment is appropriate, contemporary—that is, up to date—and effective.

  The jury is still out on the best way of treating breast cancer. We know the importance of more research and that more evidence is needed—not just pure research about the cause of breast cancer but the sort of research that justifies and follows the best way to treat breast cancer.

  So this first ever Australian Breast Cancer Day, the patron of which is Annita Keating, will go a long way to further focus the community on the need for money for research into breast cancer. Indeed, the establishment of the Kathleen Cunningham foundation will form a very significant extra part of the comprehensive program this government has in place for breast cancer.