House debates

Thursday, 30 October 2014


24 Hour Fight Against Cancer Macarthur

11:11 am

Photo of Laurie FergusonLaurie Ferguson (Werriwa, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

A decade ago a small group of people met at the Court Tavern, Campbelltown. They had attitudes that characterise the Macarthur region in general. There has always been, I think, a sense of identity which is not found in most parts of Sydney. They were very disturbed that patients had to travel vast distances for cancer care. It fitted in to a wider perspective, I guess because Campbelltown had always been on the fringe, with a semirural surround, and a very historic city. That common attitude reinforced their need to establish a new organisation.

But I do not think they had any recognition of what they would accomplish over the next decade. About a month ago I attended this year's culmination of that activity when thousands of people gathered at Campbelltown stadium for the 24 Hour Fight Against Cancer event—and I say thousands of people. They have raised $2.3 million and believe that by April they will reach $3 million, in a period of 10 years in a local area. It is accomplished through a variety of events each year: this walk itself, a car show, a golf day, a wheelchair push and an iconic annual ball.

The main driving force, of course, has been Councillor Fred Borg, an independent on the local council who throws himself into a wide variety of other community affairs. But I want to talk about the committee as well, more particularly Sue McGarrity, the deputy chairperson, and Dr Stephen Della-Fiorentina, the hospital representative on the board. Although Fred has been the guiding force, as he says, 'A good general does need a good army,' and this is a very cooperative effort. Although people advertise for a commercial purpose, it is characterised by a large degree of cooperation amongst all of the sponsors, who themselves tend to be involved in the activities as well. It is not just, 'Look, I'll pay a few thousand bucks, put my name on the brochure.' A lot of them attend the events. They have a presence, and they support it in many other ways.

This has been, as I say, a major accomplishment. On the day, survivor Ken Stonestreet and his wife, Liz, were the people who opened the event, stressing togetherness of the community, what they had sensed from their tribulations and the community support they had received. Ken mentioned in passing his knowledge of the lack of care in the United States, compared to Australia, for people suffering from cancer.

Over that period of time they have accomplished much. They have purchased a bus—they actually finance the driver. They have staff training for specialist paediatric care nurses. They have purchased mattresses, chairs and cushions and provided digital TV access to cancer patients. They have provided iPads and iTunes vouchers. They have purchased a highly specialised laser machine to treat bladder stones. Currently, they have provided $300,000 towards a wellness centre at Camden.

On the night itself, 800 people—it is a full day of events, but, even by evening, 800 people were still there—were walking around the Campbelltown stadium with candles and lights, remembering lost partners and family members but also very much celebrating survival.

I have only mentioned a few of the things that they have accomplished. They have actually spent in the area of $2.2 million, I think, of that $2.3 million raised. This is a tremendous effort at a local level. I represented a very different electorate for nearly two decades, and I did not have this sense of community, this sense of involvement, at any stage. It is something that should be very strongly recognised. The Campbelltown council is extremely supportive—it does not matter whether it is run by Liberals, Independents or Labor; they have all always been very supportive—as are the local Rotary clubs throughout the Macarthur region.

To Fred, to the committee, to the sponsors, to the people who have gained from this and to the hospital system locally: I commend a very seminal effort which is such for the whole of the Sydney community.