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Monday, 19 October 2015
Page: 11688


Ms CHESTERS (Bendigo) (12:14): I too rise to speak in favour of the motion that has been moved today by the member for Calwell. I want to take this opportunity to place on the record some of the amazing work that has been done in my electorate and in my community of Bendigo—not just for the women and the families affected by this disease, this cancer, but also what they are doing for women and families around the country. This is an important motion, and it is my privilege to stand here and speak to this motion today. Being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it is an important time to put on the record not only the great work that Breast Cancer Australia does but also the great work that is going on in our communities and the great work that our health professionals provide to women and their families who find themselves in these circumstances.

What many may not know is that the Otis Foundation, a foundation that provides respite opportunities and quality care for women who are suffering from breast cancer, is based in my electorate. Its home is in Bendigo. The Otis Foundation was inspired by Judy Burley, who passed away at a very young age of breast cancer. She was 29 when she was diagnosed. She had a vision that she wanted to deliver places of peace, nurturing and comfort for those who were in similar circumstances. Otis, the name of the foundation and of the first home where women could go seeking an opportunity to have respite, is named after her much beloved puppy dog. So it is that local story that we all know too well.

The Otis Foundation provides retreats for anybody living with the challenges of breast cancer for a non-accommodation charge, and they currently have retreats in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. They provide time to relax, reconnect and regroup. Families, friends and partners are also welcome. I can remember speaking to a single mum about how important this was for her during her pre-operation and post-operation treatments and how important it was for her young family to be able to have that space just to escape, free of charge, to be able to reconnect, come together and help to really bond and share stories during this tough time.

The facts about breast cancer we have all heard during this debate. One in nine Australian women in their lifetime is at risk of developing breast cancer. The average age for the first diagnosis of breast cancer in women is 60 years of age, and that is why, as previous speakers have said, it is so critical that we have early testing and early support programs, early diagnosis for women and for their families who are dealing with the issue and the health-related issues associated with breast cancer.

What we are also learning though is that as time goes on more and more younger women are developing and are being diagnosed with breast cancer, including one woman and her family who I would like to highlight. They are part of the Otis Foundation's focus for 2015, which is called Kez's Hideaway. Kez's Hideaway is an amazing homestead that is being built by the Otis Foundation near Bendigo in memory of Kerri Gray. In March 2011, local builder Paul Gray lost his wife to breast cancer, and she was young. Kerri, or Kez as she was known, planted the seeds for Kez's Hideaway with Paul, telling him that he should do something for Otis and to perhaps build a home for the Otis Foundation, recalling fondly how important it was to have the time away together that they had when she was quite ill with breast cancer. Paul and generous land donors the Campbell family have teamed up with the Otis Foundation to start fundraising. The good news is the building of Kez's Hideaway is well under construction and will be complete this year.

This month, being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I would like to acknowledge not just the great work for Kez's Hideaway, but also the great work of the Otis Foundation, which is proudly at home in Bendigo. It is important that we not only tackle this disease and make sure there are resources for research but also, more importantly, that we make sure there are support services and great opportunities and respite services, which is what the Otis Foundation offers to women and their families from across Australia.

Debate adjourned.