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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 15919

Address to the Sydney Cancer Centre Foundation, Sydney Opera House, Sydney

Photo of Rudd, Kevin

Rudd, Kevin

Period of Service: 03/12/2007 to 24/06/2010

More information about Rudd, Kevin on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 20/05/2008

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 15919


Thank you Ann Sanders for that kind introduction.

Mr Robin Crawford, Chairman of the Sydney Cancer Centre

Professor Chris O'Brien, Board Director, the Sydney Cancer Centre Foundation

Professor Michael Boyer, Director, the Sydney Cancer Centre

It is an honour to be here today to offer my support for such a worthy cause.


Australia is fortunate in many ways.

We have world-class health practitioners.

We have world-class health researchers.

And we have a proud record of achievement in medical science.

However, we also have much more to do.

There remains so much that we can do better and so much that we still don't know.

The gap between our aspirations and our achievements remains large - perhaps more so in cancer than in other areas, as cancer remains a large-scale killer.

Health policy challenges

The challenge is to not only close this gap, but to do so in the face of new pressures transforming health policy.

We face rising expectations and demands, alongside an ageing population, an explosion in chronic disease and rapid growth in the costs of medical technology.

These changes bring with them challenges for our entire health system - and not least for oncology.

The turmoil, and too often the tragedy, of cancer is something that has touched the lives of millions of Australian families.

Nearly half a million Australians are diagnosed with cancer each year.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates that one in three men and one in four women will be directly affected by cancer before the age of 75.

Nearly 40,000 Australians each year die from cancer - accounting for nearly a third of all male deaths and a quarter of all female deaths.

Around three-quarters of cancers are less threatening types of skin cancer (non-melanocytic skin cancer).

Many forms of cancer are preventable - and are driven by similar risk factors to other major chronic diseases.

Smoking, alcohol abuse, poor diet and a lack of exercise are the main culprits - and we will need a transformation within health policy to tackle them.

This is a transformation that must change behaviours and shift cultures - among Australians of all ages.

And while prevention is better than cure, we often have neither option.

Ongoing commitment is needed to achieve the new breakthroughs that will save lives - and this must be supported by governments.

And until those breakthroughs come, we must rely on earlier detection and more effective treatment.

On early detection, we are making some progress on this front and in the recent Budget we extended bowel cancer screening to all those turning 50, 55 and 65.

And on treatment, our survival rates are also improving. Five-year survival rates for the most common cancers affecting men (prostate) and women (breast) are now more than 80 per cent.

The patient perspective

Notwithstanding the heroic efforts of many in the health system, there is one perspective that needs a greater focus in health policy, and particularly in the fight against cancer.

That is the patient perspective.

An honest appraisal of how well we, collectively, meet the needs of patients provides the most compelling argument of all for health reform.

Living with cancer can be one of the most difficult experiences imaginable for patients, and for their families and friends.

It can bring the toughest of us back to earth with a thud, as it reminds us of what is truly important in life.

For many Australians, this most difficult time is made all the harder by the complex maze of services - Commonwealth and State, public and private - that must be navigated.

Having cancer is stressful enough.

But the task of accessing the right testing, treatment and monitoring services should not make it harder still.

We simply must do better on this front, and this desire to do better for patients is at the heart of our Government's commitment to fundamental health reform.

Translating research into patient care

The quality of treatment patients receive is also critical.

This is underpinned by the quality of our research base, our ability to translate research into practice, and the infrastructure, workforce and systems that support this.

In Washington recently I had dinner with a group of Australians working in the United States.

One of them was Dr Richard Pestell, Director of the Kimmel Cancer Centre.

Like many of the people here at the Sydney Cancer Centre, he has dedicated his life to the fight against cancer.

And like many others I have talked to in this field, Dr Pestell stressed to me the importance of cooperation and knowledge-sharing in the fight against cancer.

If we are to close the gap between aspiration and achievement in health, we need to bridge the divide between research and clinical practice.

I want to see Australians receive the best care available, and for this to occur we must be able to translate the best research into practice.

This requires cooperation not only among researchers, but also between researchers and clinicians to give our knowledge and our breakthroughs the widest possible reach.

Through the recent Budget, the Government is investing a record level of support for cancer research centres and projects.

In 2006-07, the previous government allocated $58 million to cancer specific programs. In 2008-09, the Government is allocating $214 million to cancer specific programs.

The Government's increased funding is particularly focused on supporting cancer research.

The Government's commitment includes (though is not limited to):

* An extra $87 million over three years to expand National Bowel Cancer Screening.

* $15 million over three years to support young people with cancer for the first time, through CanTeen.

* $15 million over three years for independent clinical trials of drugs and research into cancer treatment and care.

* $15 million over five years to set up two dedicated prostate cancer research centres.

* $15 million over two years to help build a Children's Cancer Centre at the Women's and Children's Hospital in Adelaide.

* $15 million over two years towards the establishment of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre at the Austin Hospital in Melbourne.

* $5.1 million over three years for the operation of the National Centre for Gynaecological Cancers, under the auspices of Cancer Australia.

Sydney Cancer Centre

The Government is also a proud supporter of the Sydney Cancer Centre.

I'm pleased to announce that the Government's 2008-09 Budget provides an initial contribution of $50 million towards the Sydney Cancer Centre.

I can also announce today that the Government will continue its engagement with the Centre and, subject to a business case, be favourably disposed towards additional financial support.

The success of the Sydney Cancer Centre - and its potential going forward - in no small part rests on its capacity to integrate research and practice.

The Sydney Cancer Centre has an enviable record as a centre of research.

But it is the holistic approach to cancer care where I see the real innovation and potential.

By translating research into practical strategies for patients - to treat the disease, to deal with causes and help with recovery - we can deliver better care and improve quality of life.

Through co-location, the two-way interaction of research and practice can sometimes transform both research and practice for the better.

Let me acknowledge your support for the Sydney Cancer Centre in helping to close the gap between aspiration and achievement.

Fundraising is a crucial part of this equation - and success would not be possible without it.

The Centre's success also depends on the hard work of many dedicated staff - who I would like to acknowledge.

This is a bold project with the potential to save the lives of many, and improve quality of life for many more.


Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to be with you on this occasion.

In congratulating the Centre for all it has achieved, and in wishing it every success going forward, I would like to pay special tribute to a great Australian.

Professor Chris O'Brien.

Chris has been a tireless campaigner in the interests of not only better cancer treatment and research, but also in promoting awareness of cancer and its impacts on people and families.

The fight against cancer is a long-term one that may test us for decades to come.

It is a fight that will test our determination and resolve, but one that we must front up to if we are to close the gap between our aspirations and our achievements as a nation.

Chris, you should know that you have made a difference in this fight, that your efforts have borne fruit, and that the fight will go on.

Thank you.

Transcript 15919