My Private Members' Motion on Breast Cancer Awareness, 19th October 2015

I move:              

That this House:              

(1) notes that:              

(a) October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and that Monday, 26 October 2015 is Pink Ribbon Day; and              

(b) breast cancer remains the most common cancer in Australian women and the second most common cancer to cause death in Australian women;              

(2) calls on the Government to:              

(a) support Breast Cancer Awareness Month;              

(b) promote early detection; and              

(c) encourage women, especially women aged 50 to 74 years, to have a mammogram every two years; and              

(3) acknowledges:              

(a) the invaluable work done by the National Breast Cancer Foundation and the Breast Cancer Institute of Australia, especially in supporting important research into treatment and a cure;              

(b) the fundraising efforts of the broader community and pays tribute to the significant contribution the Australian public makes to the overall fundraising effort; and              

(c) the heroic efforts of the women, men and their families who have experienced the breast cancer journey.


October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. With breast cancer remaining the most common cancer diagnosis amongst women and one that affects men also, albeit to a lesser extent, it is important that we continue to raise awareness about this prevalent disease.              

As the co-convenor of the parliamentary friendship group for raising breast cancer awareness, I have very much pursued this cause throughout my entire parliamentary career. In this time I have met some of the most amazing people, who are totally dedicated to raising awareness, improving treatment and eventually finding a cure. I am also constantly inspired by the women, men and families who have been through the breast cancer journey, people who have risen to the challenge and used their experience to help and support others. I am also inspired by the fundraising, advocacy and research efforts of the National Breast Cancer Foundation, the Breast Cancer Institute of Australia and the Australian public in general, and I want to sincerely thank them for all their efforts.              

Since October was declared Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it has grown into a worldwide phenomenon, giving Pink Ribbon Day an iconic global recognition and spurring an entire fundraising and awareness industry branded by the symbolic pink woman, taking in many forms, such as the morning teas, and also including a diversity of food retailers who have participated in the fundraising efforts. Retailers from Bakers Delight to Mount Franklin water and countless other household item brands are allocating a portion of their sales to breast cancer research. It is only through action that positive change can occur. The survival rates of breast cancer have increased and, undoubtedly, the Australian community has played a significant role in making this possible, through promoting awareness and raising funds.              

One passionate advocate who contributed a great deal to this cause was my dear friend, Roz Hill. Roz passed away earlier this year, on 26 February, after a decades-long battle with breast cancer—something which she dedicated most of her life to raising awareness about, especially for young people. Roz would have turned 70 last week on 8 October. She was a courageous woman, a quiet achiever who had a very matter-of-fact, no-nonsense approach to life. In one of her last texts to me, she said:              

Hi ladies, hope u both had a super Christmas and New Year. Sadly my news is not the best but inevitable I suppose! I have been taken off all treatment and given 2 to 6 months and now placed under Palliative care. Still have my mobile handy and loved getting your messages on it or facebook.              

Roz was first diagnosed with breast cancer at 29 years of age, after she had already lost both her parents to cancer. The loss of her parents and her own experience propelled Roz into advocacy work. Roz founded the Young Adults Program known as YAP, a not-for-profit organisation. Roz, with her son the late Peter Hill, who also died from cancer, developed the YAP app to inform young people about breast cancer and to encourage them, male and female alike, to conduct monthly breast examinations. Roz was an inspiration. She did not want attention or commendation; she wanted to make a difference, and that she did. I first met Roz in 2002 when she was campaigning at Parliament House to have breast prostheses put on the Medicare rebate for those women who had to have mastectomies. This passionate advocacy continued until she passed away.              

Roz's main focus was promoting early detection and raising awareness amongst young people, especially men. The YAP app provided a self-examination guide for both males and females. It is important to acknowledge that breast cancer knows no gender. Both men and women can be diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer is approximately 100 times more common in women than it is in men, which is why it is widely considered a woman's disease. It is this perception that breast cancer is solely a woman's disease that ultimately impacts on late detection in men, because men frequently do not consider that their symptoms could be a sign of breast cancer, resulting in late diagnosis. Late diagnosis has a huge impact on survival rates. Indeed, men's survival rates are much lower. Roz introduced me to her American friend, Will Roth, a breast cancer survivor who has now taken the awareness and fundraising  cause for YAP to the United States. I want to acknowledge Will, and thank him for continuing Roz's work. Will is a very active advocate and I want to quote him:              

Yapstuff is creating a generation of people aware breast cancer knows no gender. All people have the same breast tissue (some more than others) but all are subject to risks of breast cancer.              

So all power to Will's grassroots fundraising efforts and campaigning, especially the much-loved Busking for Boobs. I also want to thank Sue Purnell, a close friend of Roz Hill's who now heads the YAP program, and I want to say: Sue, yes; we all miss her.