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Monday, 19 October 2015
Page: 11684


Ms BURKE (Chisholm) (11:58): I congratulate the member for Leichhardt for his discussion on this very pertinent issue, and the member for Calwell for bringing this motion before the House. Tragically, 42 Australians are diagnosed with breast cancer every day. More tragically, seven Australians die every day as a result of breast cancer. I am sure there is not a person in this parliament who has not been touched by this disease. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed among women, and the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths amongst women.

The National Breast Cancer Foundation and the Breast Cancer Institute do an exceptional job supporting clinical research of treatments, raising awareness about breast cancer risks, encouraging early detection and supporting breast cancer survivors, their families and carers. Cancer is an insidious killer in our community and it will eventually be beaten through the sort of extensive research which is funded because of the work of these organisations.

I would also like to mention at this point the contribution of my friend Maxine Morand, who recently retired her position as the CEO of the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Maxine is known to many people in my electorate as the former state member for Mount Waverley, which sits within my electorate of Chisholm. I have known Maxine for many years. Maxine was also Minister for Children and Early Childhood Development in the Victorian government led by John Brumby. She previously worked for the Cancer Council of Australia and is a nurse by training. Maxine is also a breast cancer survivor herself. After she left parliament, not of her own choosing, she thought she would have a holiday—but no, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the end of that she took on the challenging role of CEO of the Breast Cancer Foundation in November 2011. She did so after undergoing her treatment, to give back from her experiences both in the state government and in research and, more importantly, as a survivor. I thank Maxine for the role that she undertook there, because it was a great foundation—Lyn Swinburne did a phenomenal job and is a tireless worker in this area—but Maxine brought much to it. I, as I said, have been touched by the ravages of breast cancer—not personally but, sadly, because I lost my mother-in-law to it at the tender age of 65. She had it, was treated and was fine but got one of those insidious secondaries in a lung and did not survive. She only met one of her many beautiful grandchildren. She died too soon.

While the importance of finding a cure for breast cancer and doing everything we can to prevent it cannot be undervalued, there is also an enormous amount of work that needs to be done to support people diagnosed with breast cancer and those who have survived the illness. A large number of organisations devote their energies to supporting these women and men and their families. My electorate is home to an amazing organisation called Knitted Knockers Australia, which was co-founded by Cheryl Webster at the Burwood Neighbourhood House. Knitted Knockers is a wonderful organisation that has grown out of a community project. It has become a national operation that supports women after they have had a mastectomy by providing free knitted 'knockers'. That is right—free knitted implants. Knitted Knockers Australia's motto is 'Communities helping women'. Inspired by Knitted Knockers in the United States, where it began, the Australian organisation now has over 7,000 registered volunteer knitters. Each is provided with a kit that includes everything they need to make a knitted breast prosthesis. The kit includes a ball of 100 per cent cotton, hobby filler and the knitting pattern. They come in various shapes and sizes, as do women's breasts. These kits are produced and distributed by Knitted Knockers head office out of the Burwood Neighbourhood House and distributed to a growing network of smaller branches across Australia—indeed, you might be surprised to find that there is one in your electorate—that supply them to knitting volunteers. The volunteers return the completed prostheses to the head office or the local branch. They are then distributed free to registered prosthesis recipients. There is a rigorous production and delivery schedule, with all products going through a national quality control check before they are provided for free to registered recipients. The only cost is postage.

There are many issues facing women who undergo a mastectomy, including issues of self-esteem and self-consciousness. There is also a three- to six-month wait time before silicone prostheses can be fitted after surgery. For many women a silicone prosthesis, or reconstructive surgery, is simply too expensive, and many find the prostheses too heavy or too hot to deal with. Knitted Knockers provide an amazing selection. They are very hygienic, very soft and very serviceable. They are light and made of natural fibre. This is a community activity inspired by individuals who have also been touched by this insidious disease. Unsurprisingly there is a very high demand: over 3,500 prostheses have already been given out in 12 months alone, and the biggest issue is keeping up with demand. I congratulate Cheryl Webster and Julie Weaver, who have founded this amazing group that is providing so much emotional support to women in need in my community.