Senate debates

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Matters of Public Interest

Breast Cancer Network Australia

1:11 pm

Photo of Judith AdamsJudith Adams (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It gives me great pleasure to have the opportunity to speak about the work of the Breast Cancer Network Australia and the retiring chief executive officer, Lyn Swinburne AM. On 25 October I was invited to attend the BCNA annual lunch in Melbourne. This function was also to farewell and thank founding member and CEO Lyn Swinburne AM. Six hundred people attended this very popular event. As a breast cancer survivor I have been involved with BCNA and have known Lyn Swinburne since the inaugural conference for women with breast cancer held in Melbourne in 1998. I went on to represent BCNA as a consumer representative before being elected to parliament in 2004.

Today I wish to speak about Lyn. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993 at 40 years of age with two young children. As a result of her experiences, she has become a committed advocate on behalf of women with breast cancer and their families. Lyn's dedication, hard work and passion have resulted in an extraordinary decade of achievements for all Australians personally affected by breast cancer. Lyn Swinburne founded Breast Cancer Network Australia, commonly known as BCNA, in 1998 to represent women affected by breast cancer and their families. Lyn envisaged an organisation that would positively influence the way breast cancer was considered in the community. Her goal is for people to talk openly about the disease and acknowledge its enormous personal impact. BCNA aimed to keep scientists focused on discovering what might cause the disease and how we could reduce its toll; to encourage health professionals to see the people diagnosed as individuals with changing needs; to provide timely and quality information so women could make important decisions about their treatment and health care; and to ensure breast cancer was on the agenda of governments and people in planning services. BCNA is now the peak national breast cancer 'consumer' organisation representing 300 member groups and more than 62,000 individuals in all states and territories. BCNA currently has a staff of 30 and a vast number of volunteers working for the organisation.

Lyn is the creator of the Field of Women, a graphical display of pink silhouettes of women representing women diagnosed with the disease every year. Lyn said in her farewell speech at the luncheon that she feels she has spent the last 15 years of her life in pink and she was delighted that the horse that won the Derby was called Pinka Pinka. That was two days before the luncheon and she thought that was very apt for her leaving the organisation. The inaugural Field of Women, which I am sure most people here would certainly know about, was a visual display of breast cancer statistics on the lawns of Parliament House in 1998. There have now been Field of Women displays in six countries around the world. Field of Women grew into another major awareness-raising event in 2005 when the first Field of Women LIVE was held. I am sure that most people would remember the 12,000 Australians dressed in pink ponchos and gathered together under lights at the MCG in Melbourne to raise awareness of the impact of breast cancer on Australians. Field of Women LIVE was again held in 2010.

Lyn developed The Beacon magazine, which is pink, as an information source for those affected by breast cancer. It now has a circulation of over 60,000, which is absolutely amazing. Lyn also conceived the idea of the My Journey Kit for newly diagnosed women. This kit is just so helpful. It takes women through their journey, with very practical applications, explaining exactly what is going on. It is very difficult, when you are diagnosed, to remember all the things you are told. This My Journey Kit is something you can go back to. It is a free, comprehensive information resource for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2010, 82 per cent of women received the My Journey Kit following their diagnosis, so it has a terrific circulation. The kit has been so popular and successful that another kit, Hopes and Hurdles, has been developed for women diagnosed with secondary breast cancer. This kit is something I often refer to, having spent the past three years with metastatic breast cancer.

Lyn Swinburne has been a passionate advocate for consumer input since her diagnosis with breast cancer. Lyn has represented women with breast cancer on a number of state, national and international committees. She is currently a member of Cancer Australia's Advisory Council, a member of the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Council's Implementation Advisory Group, a member of the Clinical Advisory Group to the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons' National Breast Cancer Audit, a member of the Victorian Cancer Action Plan Implementation Committee and a member of the Breast Cancer Committee of the Victorian Cooperative Oncology Group.

In 2011, Lyn was featured in the publication The Power of 100: one hundred women who have shaped Australia. That was justly deserved. Lyn's dedication to fighting breast cancer has been recognised in her receipt of many awards, including induction into the Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame at Swinburne University of Technology in July 2008, being named the Melbournian of the Year in 2007 and, in January 2006, being named a Member of the Order of Australia, which is very fitting. She was a finalist in the Australian of the Year in 2006 and was given the Tattersall's Award for Enterprise and Achievement in 2005. She was named Equity Trustees Not for Profit CEO of the Year for 2004-2005 and was awarded the Centenary Federation Medal in 2003. She was granted induction onto the Victorian Women's Honour Roll in 2002 and was named the Victorian Telstra Business Woman of the Year in the 'community and government' category in 2001. In 2000, Lyn was one of three Australians invited to sign the Charter of Paris Against Cancer at the Elysee Palace in the presence of the French President, Jacques Chirac. Lyn has also been an invited speaker at numerous national and international breast cancer conferences in New Zealand, Asia, the USA and Europe. These include being the keynote guest speaker at Breast Cancer Network Japan's 2007 conference, held in Tokyo, and being chair of the Third Breast Cancer Global Patient Group Summit, held in Stresa, Italy, in May 2006. Lyn also attended a short course in non-profit management at the Harvard Business School in 2005, as part of the prize for her Equity Trustees award.

Lyn's leadership of BCNA has resulted in many benefits for women affected by breast cancer and for their families. Some of the achievements of BCNA in 2010 include nearly 14,000 new members, training of their first Indigenous community liaison person and establishment of 45 new support groups. Services provided by BCNA included, as I have said, 82 per cent of newly diagnosed women receiving a My Journey Kit; the launching of an online network, which had 2,500 active members within six months; and, the holding of 11 information forums in regional Australia. The voice of BCNA was heard through the more than 3,000 women involved in research projects, through presentations at four major national conferences and through the appointment of 10 new advocates. BCNA's progress in building relationships can be seen in the 594 health professionals involved in the new My Care Kit program; the celebration this year of 10 years of partnership with Bakers Delight—and I must say that Bakers Delight came on board right at the start and have remained as the main sponsor for BCNA—and the new partnerships established with BHP Billiton, Nissan Australia and Channel 9. BCNA has also built its public profile through Field of Women LIVE 2010, which united 14,000 people at the MCG, through the 265 Field of Women mini-events held across Australia and through the two events held internationally. Lyn has harnessed the energy and profile of many Australians to help her in her endeavour to ensure that all women diagnosed with breast cancer receive the best possible care and treatment available, no matter where they live or their personal circumstances. The following is a quote from Lyn's farewell speech:

What I am proud of is that I have rallied the women into an organisation of support and national action by establishing BCNA with its now 62,000 members and 300-odd Member Groups across the length of this country.

We have brought a new and unique perspective to Australia's effort in breast cancer. We have articulated very powerfully that breast cancer is far more than simply removing a breast or being on the receiving end of treatment. Its ramifications and impact can be extremely long lasting, affecting entire households, workplaces and generations. Many women will tell you it's as much about what's in the heart and in the head, as in the breast.

I would just like to conclude with a quote from Marg O'Donnell, who is the current chairperson of Breast Cancer Network Australia. She said: I have had the privilege of working with Lyn for the past five years and during that time I have admired her unique ability to inspire and attract key people to help with the cause. I have marvelled at her outspokenness, her bravery, her unwavering focus and constant hard work. Her genuine warmth and often irreverent sense of humour is evident with everyone she meets.

She has been available 24/7 and given her all to the Breast Cancer Network of Australia. Most importantly, she has achieved her aim of improving the lives of people diagnosed with breast cancer and their loved ones. On behalf of the Board and the team at BCNA I want to thank Lyn for everything she's done and to wish her every success and happiness for the next exciting phase of her life.

As Lyn leaves, Breast Cancer Network has announced the appointment of Maxine Morand as its new CEO, effective from 28 November 2011. This appointment is the culmination of a transition process over the past 12 months, since Lyn Swinburne advised the board of her intention to retire from the role. Maxine was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, providing an intimate knowledge and understanding of the issues facing women with breast cancer. She said:

I am very excited to have the opportunity to lead this fantastic organisation. I want to build on BCNA's considerable achievements and ensure that BCNA continues its vital role of providing quality information and support for the many thousands of people affected by breast cancer every year in Australia.

The outgoing CEO, Lyn Swinburne, said that she was delighted with Maxine's appointment. She went on to say:

I am confident I leave the organisation with a solid foundation and a dynamic and passionate new leader.

BCNA chair, Marg O'Donnell, said:

BCNA has established a reputation as a powerful voice for those personally affected by breast cancer. The board is confident Maxine brings the right mix of skills and experience to take BCNA forward to meet the challenges in breast cancer support and advocacy.

In those few minutes, it was quite amazing to hear what had been achieved by this remarkable person. Lyn, of course, had a very strong board behind her. At the luncheon, she certainly paid tribute to all those board members who had helped her achieve what she wanted. She is dynamic. She does not take 'no' lightly. I think a very good example of that was when she lobbied government time and time again to get the Herceptin program up and running in 2001. Her achievements have been absolutely incredible. Lyn's family have probably not seen all that much of her in the last 15 years. Lyn has done a wonderful job and I wish her and her family well in the future.