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Thursday, 18 November 2010
Page: 1698

Senator FURNER (6:54 PM) —I rise today to give honour to the hard work and dedication of the Cancer Council and to share my own experiences in the recent Relay for Life Brisbane event. This was the first year that the Brisbane Relay for Life event was held at the Exhibition Showgrounds. Relay for Life events are held annually in a variety of locations nationally with the intention of raising awareness and funds. The event celebrates cancer survivors and mourns those whose lives the disease has claimed. The Relay for Life encourages us to fight back against the disease, which has affected every one of us in some way or another. This is an event that is very close to my heart and one that I have participated in for the last several years.

The Cancer Council is an extremely admirable charity. It works year round raising funds for cancer research, educating the community on early prevention and providing support to those who are affected by cancer. With one in two Australians being diagnosed with cancer, it is a disease that is going to affect everyone one of us in some way. Cancer does not discriminate—whether it be a family member, a friend or even yourself, it is likely that cancer has impinged on all of our lives.

According to recent statistics from the Cancer Council, cancer is the leading cause of death in Australia. In this year alone more than 115,000 new cases have been diagnosed and it has claimed the lives of 43,000—12,000 more people die each year at the hands of this disease than 30 years ago. Cancer costs $38 billion on our healthcare system yearly. With the exception of non-melanoma skin cancer, the most common forms of cancer include prostate, bowel, breast, melanoma and lung cancer.

However there is good news. Over the last two decades the survival rate has increased by 35 per cent. And on the subject of melanoma, here in our sunburnt country melanoma is often called ‘Australia’s cancer’. With around 10,000 new cases diagnosed each year, it is the most common cancer affecting young people. Closer to home, in my early 20s my wife, being the same age, developed melanoma cancer and spent two periods in hospital having this insidious disease removed.

Just last week while catching the last few moments of the ABC’s 7.30 Report I heard with interest about some amazing breakthrough in this type of cancer. Michael Roberts, long-time club president of Brighton Beach Athletic Club, explained during the interview of his miraculous recovery—having been told by doctors previously he did not have long to live. Michael explained how within 24 hours his pain had all gone after taking experimental drugs called BRAF inhibitors. These drugs, which are taken orally, target the mutations and block the mutant BRAF gene, stopping the cancer almost immediately.

This makes the work of non-government organisations such as the Cancer Council extremely important. It is why each year I join many others in the 18-hour Relay for Life. Through our participation as a community we can work alongside the Cancer Council to raise funds to find a cure for this disease. Over the last five years we have helped raise over $70,000 for the charity through this event.

Alongside Wendy Cooke, Abdul Obeid, Christine Stubbs, Alana Smith, Terry Kent, Carol Cooke, her partner John, Sharon Stocker, her partner Vinay, Courtney and Chelsea Lambert, John Hamze, and Russell Vieritz and his partner, Sherilyn Johnson, we took on the 18-hour relay as the ‘Senator’s Sorcerers’. Additionally, I recognise Senator Moore, who has participated in each Relay for Life event since I have been involved; however, due to unforseen circumstances was unable to be involved this year.

The idea of the event is to have at least one team member carrying the team baton around the track for the entire 18 hours. Each member took half-hour shifts. I would like to say a special thankyou to all of my team members—especially those who took on the graveyard shifts. Some of the experiences from the night are that we raised an additional $107. Then around dusk the candle light vigil takes place, recognising and remembering those lost from this insidious disease. Also this year, three of us—two of my staff, Abdul and Terry, and me—had our heads shaved at 7.30 am on the Sunday morning. So I have not joined some new, far right-wing cult or tried to recapture the memory of what my father used to do when I was taken down the back of the garage and given a crew cut; it is an attempt to raise additional money, and we did. The privilege was given to Netbox Blue to shave me at 7.30 on that Sunday morning. And in doing so we picked up the second highest fundraiser in the event at the closing ceremony towards 9 am that morning.

I would like once again to thank my fellow team mates for all their hard work, not only during the relay but also for their help raising much needed funds. I would also like thank a long list of sponsors who generously donated for the cause. These include Senator Dana Wortley, Senator Catryna Bilyk, Senator Annette Hurley, Senator John Faulkner; the member for Lindsay, David Bradbury; the Member for Blair, Shayne Neumann; the member for Werriwa, Laurie Ferguson; Julie Collins, the Parliamentary Secretary for Community Services; Jenny Macklin, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs; Super Cheap Auto, Colgate-Palmolive, National Foods, Kerry Ingredients, Gail Ker from A.C.C.E.S.S Services; David Smith, Secretary of the Australian Services Union; Chris Forrester, Bidvest, Terri Irwin from Australia Zoo, Antoine Ghanem from Byblos Restaurant, Clare Gambaro from Solutions Found, Inspector John Fox from Queensland Police Service, Russell Thirgood, Russell Furner, Thor Lambert, Julian Origliasso; Lanna Le, who herself is battling cancer; Joe Sim from RBS Morgans Mackay, Dr. Evan Jones, John Fison and Peter Christensen from Netbox Blue, Karen Conner, Mount Gravatt Little Athletics, McDonald’s at Windsor West, Dominos Pizza and Henry Lawrence. They used a variety of methods to raise money. Most of the money was raised online and most of the companies donated by cheque. Once again, it is extremely appreciated not only by our team but also by the Cancer Council.

I also want to acknowledge the special extra efforts made by Wendy and Carol Cooke, who held an amazing fundraiser at their residence through a BBQ and drinks night. They raised the huge amount of $4,000 on the night. Additionally, one week before the event the Obeid family, friends and neighbours all pitched in with a fundraiser at their residence raising a further $1,025. All your support was greatly appreciated and contributed towards a grand total of over $15,370 for our team’s efforts this year.

Additionally I extend my appreciation to Morgan Brown, Vicki James and all the other staff and volunteers from Cancer Council Queensland who made sure everything went as smooth as clockwork for all the teams. These events happen all over this state, throughout every other state in this nation and having top quality people like these working for the Cancer Council makes the whole event more successful.

The 2010 Relay for Life was a huge success. I look forward to continuing my support for the Cancer Council and once again participating in next year’s event.