ADJOURNMENT;Brain Cancer – 09 Nov 2016

I rise tonight to speak about an event that was held last Sunday in Margate in the south of Hobart in Tasmania, and that was the annual Cure Brain Cancer Foundation walk. This is an event I have organised for the last three years. I have to say every year it gets bigger and I am very proud that that happens. For those who do not know, Cure Brain Cancer Foundation is the organisation that was started up by Dr Charlie Teo, the very eminent neurosurgeon. People might have seen his interview with Anh Do only a few weeks ago, where Anh Do was painting him. I know Charlie very well. I thought that interview captured Charlie to a tee. The fact that he tells me to call him ‘Charlie’ when he is such an eminent person says to me exactly what type of person he is. He has no airs or graces. He is just a man with the biggest heart I think I have ever known, who is willing to take risks, who is willing to take on the causes that other people will not take on.

As people in this place probably know, some eight years ago I was operated on and had two brain tumours successfully removed. When I came to this place I got in contact with the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation and then set up the friendship group—the non- partisan friendship group—in parliament. Ever since then I have been working with the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation to support them and their great cause. This was our third walk. Just a minute ago, I was thinking back to the first walk. For that first walk, I would get very excited if I thought we would get 50 people to register. We actually ended up with 100. I think we raised about $20,000. Every year we seem to increase our numbers by 100, and I am hoping that that will continue. On our third walk we had over 300 people registered. It was not a particularly nice day for a walk, but we had over 300 walkers. I must admit that it was not as bad a day as it was for the first event, when it hailed while we were walking. This walk was not that bad. There were a few showers. The people in the brain cancer community obviously deal with a lot of challenges, so a few light showers did not perturb anyone.

Prior to the event, we had had 210 or so people register online, and we had another 90 or so people register on the day. They just turned up to walk. We had teams of people supporting family and friends of those who had died or people who were suffering from brain cancer or brain tumours. I will get to couple of those stories. This year, for the first time, we had a nice memorial before we kicked off the walk. We had a barbecue, a raffle and the memorial service. The service was led by a wonderful young woman, Eliza Nolan. Eliza is about 25 years old. I have known Eliza since the first walk, and I had asked her to speak at the memorial service. She is a med student, she has just finished her honours year, and she is an amazing young woman. When she was diagnosed three years ago, she sat her first year medical exams knowing that she had brain cancer. This was before her surgery and before her treatment. So I take my hat off to Eliza. She is three years clear. This is the greatest news any of us can have. Eliza did this wonderful little talk about when she came to the first walk and how she felt so alone. She talked about how she had not long been diagnosed and that she did not know who to turn to. As a med student, she of course has a very keen interest in this area, and she has since become very involved in this cause. She and I are very honoured to be the two Cure Brain Cancer ambassadors for Tasmania. Eliza spoke about how this walk brought people together, how people who felt alone realised that there were so many other people suffering from this insidious disease.

I mentioned a minute ago that we had a raffle. It was a wonderful little raffle, full of Christmas goodies. I was really happy because of who won this raffle. The woman who won the raffle has a young daughter, Caitlin, who I know; in fact, I know her much better than I know her mother. This woman’s husband, Caitlin’s dad, had died only a few months ago from brain cancer. He had only 10 days. His diagnosis was 10 days. He was diagnosed on one day and 10 days later he died. I was just so happy that they won the raffle in that I know they are going to have a tough Christmas. They know how I feel towards them. I have had lengthy conversations with them and offered my condolences on numerous occasions, so they know how I feel. I was happy that that this not-so-little hamper, full of Christmas goodies—all sort of things like Christmas cakes, Christmas lights and candles; I cannot remember what else was in there—would help make their Christmas a bit easier in their first year without Gordon. That was really nice.

We also had for the first time a crane-making ceremony. Of course, anyone who knows anything about the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation knows that cranes are their logo—so we had this crane making ceremony. If you have ever tried to make an origami crane can I suggest that you breathe deeply first, because I think there are about 15 to 22 steps involved, depending on which YouTube video you watch or which instructions you follow. I have to say that I was not particularly good at it. However, one of my staff members had previously had a Japanese exchange student stay with them who taught her daughter how to make them. So her young daughter, who is 20, made hundreds of cranes for us. People wrote messages on them and hung them on the tree. It was quite a spectacular visual of how important this issue is. Because of the election campaign, we started this year’s campaign only six or seven weeks ago. We managed to raise over $38,000. In fact, it was $38,391. There is still money coming in, so we are hoping it will get to $40,000. That money will go towards research into lifesaving brain cancer treatment.

The thing I really want to point out to people in this place—I do not care; people just have to get this—brain cancer kills more kids in Australia than any other disease does, and it gets five per cent of the funding. I just find that atrocious. Even when we were in government I was banging on about it, and I found it atrocious. Picture a classroom full of kids—the number is usually 20 to 25 kids, certainly in Tassie—and then add half again. Now picture those kids in the beginning- or end-of-year photo and then picture all those empty seats. That is why we do this. That is why I am so behind this issue and raising money for Cure Brain Cancer.

I do not have too much time tonight. Actually, I was not going to speak on this tonight, so I am just talking off the top of my head a bit. We had a range of people there. I had a great group of volunteers. I thank Julie Collins, the federal member for Franklin, for her support and attendance at the event and the local Kingborough mayor, Steve Wass, for joining us. I would love to thank my staff for all the great work they do in helping me organise this each year and the volunteers who made it possible. In particular, I thank Eliza, whom I mentioned; Leita who made the cranes; Edna; Yani; Vicky; Maxine; Ray; Helen; Alissa; Marguerite; and my husband, Robert, who is a great photographer and was running around all day with the camera. Special thanks to our youngest volunteer, Charlotte. Charlotte is aged seven. She raised about $300 and came and helped us volunteer, and I think that is pretty special. Thanks also to Fiona Hutchison who was the entertainer for the day. She came along and did not charge us anything. She gave up her time, which she does for so many events throughout Tasmania. She provided great musical entertainment. I also thank the volunteers from St John Ambulance for being at the ready. I thank Vicky Gale from Cure Brain Cancer and her partner, Stuart. They came down from Sydney to help us, and Vicky was our support in the lead-up to the event. We greatly appreciate her extra efforts. Thanks to Kingborough Council, which let us use the park at no cost. I managed to get Coles and Woolworths on board this year. They gave us some donations so we could run a barbecue, so there was not that much cost to us this year and that was really good. Finally, I thank all the people who registered, walked, raised funds and donated money. Their contributions will undoubtedly help save lives as we work towards finding new treatments for the disease, which, as I said, kills more Australian children than any other.

Senate adjourned at 19:46