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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 743

Ms KING (Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing and Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Transport) (10:50 AM) —Last Monday, 14 February, I, alongside the new Victorian Minister for Health, turned the first sod of the Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre. Once this facility is completed, people across the Ballarat electorate and western Victoria will have access to a world-class cancer treatment centre. I was delighted to be at an event that will have significant, tangible benefits not only for my electorate but for the people of western Victoria.

Cancer is Australia’s leading burden of disease. In 2007, there were more than 100,000 new cases of cancer diagnosed and almost 40,000 deaths from cancer. Particularly concerning is that, for the 30 per cent of Australians living in rural and remote areas, the outcomes are worse than for people living in cities. With some cancers, patients from rural and remote areas are up to three times more likely to die within five years of diagnosis than their urban counterparts. That is why the Labor government is investing $1.3 billion over six years in health and hospitals funding for national cancer infrastructure projects. Of that amount, we have committed $560 million to build a national network of best-practice regional cancer centres and associated accommodation facilities to help close the gap in outcomes for cancer patients in rural and regional Australia.

The regional cancer centres initiative will build a world-class cancer care system in Australia that will assist people living in rural, regional and remote areas to have better access to essential cancer services, deal more effectively with cancer treatment challenges and live longer, better-quality lives. In Ballarat, this initiative will result in a new, integrated regional radiation oncology service for the Grampians region, which extends from Bacchus Marsh to the South Australian border. The Australian government is providing more than $42 million for this project. When completed in 2013, the centre will consist of two linear accelerators, four radiation oncology bunkers, four new chemotherapy chairs and a computed tomography scanner. This new facility will take the pressure off facilities in Melbourne by reducing the need for many cancer patients to travel for essential treatment.

The BRICC represents a joint effort from the entire region. The Ballarat community, Ballarat Health Services, Austin Health and St John of God Ballarat all worked hard to submit an extremely strong application for funding. The project also received strong support from the former state member for Ballarat West Karen Overington, whom I commend for her efforts. I would like to also recognise the strong contribution that the people of Ballarat and the surrounding areas have played in this project. Cancer is one of those diseases that tends to touch each of us, personally or through our families or our friends. I am pleased that Ballarat is part of the regional cancer centre initiative and will become an important part of our long-term goal to ensure that all Australians have access to a world-class cancer care system. (Time expired)