House debates

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Questions without Notice

Health Care

2:49 pm

Photo of Fiona MartinFiona Martin (Reid, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Women. Will the minister outline to the House how the Morrison government's stable and certain economic management is helping address the real issue of women's health, including those women suffering from ovarian cancer?

Photo of Sussan LeySussan Ley (Farrer, Liberal Party, Minister for the Environment) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Reid for her question and for her genuine interest in this important women's issue.

Ovarian cancer is a cruel and devastating diagnosis for women, for their families and for their communities. It's estimated to be the 10th-most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australian women, and 1,500 women will die of it this year. The survival rate for ovarian cancer is only 45 per cent—relatively low, in part due to the fact that it just doesn't have an early detection test.

The Morrison government is investing $20 million for research grants into ovarian cancer. We gratefully received that information from the health minister this morning. This funding will be provided through the Medical Research Future Fund's Emerging Priorities and Consumer Driven Research Initiative. The grant opportunity is now open for high-quality research which will contribute to a greater understanding of the causes and the underlying factors in the development and progression of ovarian cancer.

I caught up with Professor David Bowtell, who hails from my electorate of Farrer in the upper Murray region. He is, lately, the principal investigator in the Australian Ovarian Cancer Study. He talked to me about the priorities of these grants being not just about early detection but about a cure. Professor Bowtell is already conducting landmark research in a bid to find out how cancer cells are combating the treatments that we have now, because we know that chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy work for a while and then stop working. That's the code that we have to crack.

One of the important aspects of the grants that are coming out in this particular round is psychosocial support. The member for Reid, with her background in family counselling, knows only too well that there is the diagnosis, but then there is the going home. There is managing the trips to treatment and managing what is an incredibly life-changing event. So it is important that the health system also recognises the effect that this has on families, and reaches out with that very valuable support. I'm delighted that that support is reaching 400 rural women.

Women, who spend so much of their lives holding their families close, can know that through the brilliant minds of the researchers in this country, our $20 billion investment in the Medical Research Future Fund, the new clinical trials and, now, this new round of grants for ovarian cancer research, we will continue to hold them close.