ADJOURNMENT;Relay for Life – 11 May 2011

I rise to speak about one of those wonderful fundraisers that many politicians get involved in, and that is the Cancer Council’s Relay for Life. I will specifically refer to the Cancer Council’s Relay for Life that was held in Huonville in southern Tasmania. Firstly, I will give a bit of history about the Relay for Life.

Relay for Life began in May 1985 when American colorectal surgeon Dr Gordy Klatt spent a gruelling 24 hours running and walking around a local oval in Tacoma, Washington, raising awareness of cancer. His efforts raised over $27,000, with people paying $25 to run or walk for 30 minutes with him. Since then, the event has spread across the USA and then across the globe. Relay for Life events are now held in more than 600 communities spanning 20 countries. Relay for Life began in Australia in 1999, when the Victorian community of Murrumbeena raised over $75,000 for the Cancer Council. This event is now held in every state and raises over $14 million annually. Money raised goes towards transport for patients, research grants, scholarships, cancer prevention, education, a helpline and various other important activities and services to reduce the incidence of cancer and support people living with the disease.

In March I entered a team, Catryna’s Crusaders, in the inaugural Huonville Relay for Life event in Australia’s most southern municipality, the beautiful Huon Valley. The team consisted of family, friends and staff from my office. It is estimated that more than 370 walkers participated in total throughout the duration of the Huonville event. Catryna’s Crusaders raised over $1,700 in just two weeks, so we are fairly proud of our support for the Cancer Council. The Huonville Relay for Life Committee had a goal of raising $30,000. This was well exceeded, with a total in excess of $59,000. That was an amazing effort, especially when you consider that it is one of four relay events in Tasmania, Huonville is much smaller than the major population centres and it was also the inaugural event for the area.

In other parts of Tasmania, the Hobart event raised more than $341,000; Launceston, $219,000; and Penguin, on the north-west coast, over $271,000. That is a total of more than $890,000 raised by Tasmania, which I think is a terrific effort for such a small state. I am personally overwhelmed by the amount of support that Relay for Life receives each year in Tasmania, as does the Cancer Council in general. I think they are a great organisation and people in Tasmania are very appreciative of the work they do.

Everyone participating in the Huonville event entered into the spirit of things in their own way. Some participants chose to dress up, with people wearing party hats, wigs, or dressed in animal suits and other costumes such as Spiderman and Darth Vader. My team had a purple theme, with balloons, streamers, a banner and a purple baton. We did have a bit of fun getting our tent and banner up, but they pleasingly did stay up for the whole event.

The relay requires that each team has at least one member on the track for the duration of the event. We walked together as a team sometimes, while at other times there was only one member on the track. At 1.30 am, I walked for an hour or so and a young man, a 16-year-old, from one of the school teams I knew just ran out and joined me and walked around and around doing the laps with me. I thought that was impressive. Some members of the team jogged or ran but mostly it was a nice leisurely pace, great for keeping up the conversation. There was a real carnival atmosphere, with a jumping castle and carousel set up for the children. There were bands playing, a massage tent for participants, a tug-of-war challenge, and food available courtesy of the local Lions Club. It was wonderful to see so many people involved and to see people of all ages taking part.

I would like to mention the highest fundraisers for the Huonville event. Gary Smith won the individual award for raising $4,029, while the Black Rods team—yes, there was a team called the Black Rods, from the Legislative Council in Tasmania—raised $7,112.50. It was a remarkable effort by everyone concerned. number of teams were involved in this event. They were: the Huonville Pharmacy; the Huon Valley Little Athletics; the Black Rods—as I said, from Tasmanian Legislative Council; Woolies Huonville; A Law Unto Themselves—which is a firm of lawyers in the local area, Baker Wilson Lawyers; The Bankers Dozen from the ANZ Bank; Lucaston Park Orchards; The Council Crusaders, who were from the Huon Valley Council; Sacred Heart Catholic School, Geeveston; The Bendy Go-Gos, the Bendigo Community Bank; Huon Valley Aquatic; A Drop of Red, the Red Cross; The Flintstones, which is Duggans Earthmoving Equipment; and the St James Flames, St James Catholic College. Prizes were also awarded for a number achievements. Lucaston Park Orchards won the prize for the most laps, Bankers Dozen won best baton and the Black Rods team won best uniform. Huon Valley Little Athletics won the best campsite, while best team name went to A Law Unto Themselves—as I said, a local legal group.

There was a great sense of fun and camaraderie, but everyone knew that we were there to raise money and awareness for cancer. And, of course, we were there to pay tribute to all those people who have fought cancer, those we have lost, those who have triumphed and those who are currently battling the disease.

The opening ceremony included the Relay Oath and the Survivors’ Dedication by Miss Barbara Greenstreet. The ribbon was cut by the mayor of the Huon Valley, Councillor Robert Armstrong. The opening ceremony was followed by the first lap of the event, known as the Survivors’ Walk. As a survivor of cancer, I had the privilege of participating in the front row of the walk and helping to hold the banner. It was really wonderful to see so many survivors wearing their purple sashes as well. We were then joined in the walk by carers and other participants for the next lap.

We all know the statistics about cancer, but to see so many survivors and their carers in the one place really does bring home to everyone how many people are touched by cancer. On the Saturday night there was a luminary session ceremony, where people could light a candle to remember all those people who have passed away following the battle with cancer. The closing ceremony on the Sunday included Mrs Megan Graham, a team member of the Black Rods, sharing her cancer experience in a very moving speech.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved with Relay for Life: the organisers, including the Chief Executive Officer of Cancer Council Tasmania, Mr Darren Carr and his team; the Lions Clubs of Huon and Port Cygnet and the Kingborough/Huon Rural Youth Club; all the participants, of course; and the many people who donated so generously of their time, their money and their hard work and effort. Thank you also to the Huon Valley Newsfor the wonderful coverage of the event both in the lead-up and following that event.

I would like to say a special thanks to the other members of Catryna’s Crusaders: my husband Robert; my staff, Daniel Hulme, Gabrielle Morrison, Brooke Eastley and Scott Faulkner. Other members of the team were: Jeffrey Gough, Colleen Smith, Leah Triffett, Emily Brinckman, Caleb Irwin, Fiona Emmett, David O’Byrne MP and Josephine Sinclair and her children Teagan, Chloe and Toby. Teagan, Chloe and Toby did not stay that long, but they did do a few a laps and they gave me some money that the children had raised through the neighbourhood and the school in the preceding week. It was about $70, and I think that deserves a special mention.

At this point I would also like to acknowledge Senators Furner, Moore, Stephens and McEwen for their generous donations to the Catryna’s Crusaders team. I know that Senator Furner regularly has his own team in Relay for Life and raises a considerable amount of money for the Cancer Council.

The Cancer Council has decided to hold the Huonville event again in 2012, and I look forward to participating and raising even more money for this very worthwhile cause.