Cancer Council Western Australia was established in 1958 by a committed group of individuals who saw the need to coordinate cancer detection and treatment, stimulate cancer research and provide support to those affected by cancer.
While many other cancer groups have since formed in WA, we have endured as Western Australia’s leading independent cancer organisation.
We’ve come a long way since our humble beginnings in 1958 and we owe that to the generosity and unwavering support of the WA community.
60 years ago, the chance of surviving a cancer diagnosis was around 30 to 40 per cent.
Today, survival rates for the most common cancers are more than 90 per cent, and the overall five-year survival rate for those diagnosed with cancer is around 60 per cent.
With the support of the WA community, we will continue to work tirelessly to get closer to a cancer free future.
1940's - 1950's
1940s -Cancer began to emerge as a major health issue for WA.
1950s – Landmark studies in the UK and US showed conclusively that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer (75% of Australian men were smokers at this time!)
The Public Health Department established the Cancer Research Unit in Nedlands.
1952 – The Minister for Health, Dame Florence Cardell-Oliver recognised the public’s desire to donate money for cancer activities and placed an advertisement to encourage people to make donations to cancer research in lieu of flowers at funerals.
1955 – WA was represented at a Federal Government interstate Cancer Conference to assist us in coordinating cancer detection and treatment and to stimulate cancer research.
1956 – Our first meeting as Cancer Council WA (known then as the WA Anti-Cancer Council).
A Public appeal for WA’s first linear accelerator (radiotherapy machine) for cancer treatment took place. Volunteers helped with the appeal which raised £116, 773 and allowed an order to be placed for the new machine, which was housed at the new Institute of Radiotherapy at UWA. The Linear Accelerator replaced the ‘Cobalt Bomb’ which was the first type of radiotherapy used in Perth.
1958 – The Cancer Council of Western Australia Act was introduced to Parliament and marked our establishment.
1960's - 1970's
1960s– We joined the International Union Against Cancer (UICC). This group aims to work globally to beat cancer and we remain part of this important international body today.
We began to lobby the Health Department to undertake public education about the dangers of tobacco.
1961 – The new linear accelerator was installed at the Institute of Radiotherapy and the first patient was treated.
Our first paid employee, AJ Shears was appointed as Secretary on an annual salary of £1,720.
1963– We contributed £3,500 to the Scientific and Advisory Committee for small research projects and the first vacation scholarships for tertiary students.
We provided a £3,000 grant for the establishment of a voluntary cancer registry (cancer was not a notifiable disease at this stage).
We began our cancer prevention initiative with £4,000 allocated to a Public Education Program.
The ‘Crusade Against Cancer’ fundraising appeal was launched, raising £100,000.
The Ladies Auxiliary of the ‘Crusade Against Cancer’ appeal committee (now known as Friends of Cancer Council WA) still exists today.
1968 – We awarded our first Student Vacation Research Scholarship.
1970s – We began the State Cancer Registry and the Leukemia and Allied Disorders Registry from our offices – notification was voluntary.
The Cancer Service Committee was established to place more emphasis on providing services and support to cancer patients.
We helped fund the purchase of Professor George Yeoh’s first microscope, which he continues to use for cancer research to this day. Professor Yeoh was later appointed as a member of our Board (June 2009) and was appointed as our President in 2014.
1972 – The first Bone Tumour Registry in Australia was established. The registry continues to provide important data on bone tumours today.
1973 – We welcomed success in national tobacco control with legislation implemented requiring all cigarette packages to carry the statement ‘Warning – Smoking is a Health Hazard’.
1977 – Our Breast Cancer Support Service was established (then known as the Mastectomy Rehabilitation Service). Temporary breast prostheses were provided with help from the Country Women’s Association.
The A.H. Crawford Cancer Treatment Society was established by husband and wife, Algernon and Doreen Crawford, to channel proceeds of Algernon’s estate to help those affected by cancer.
1978 – In partnership with Lotteries Commission, we provided grants which allowed the opening of the first country patient accommodation at Anstey House, part of the nurses home at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.
1979 – Our ‘John Wayne Cancer Appeal’ raised $380,000. John Wayne’s planned visit to Perth cancelled due to his own treatment for lung cancer. Betty Ford also offers to help.
We were sued for defamation by Solarium Association for our criticism of solariums.
1980 – We launched our first national ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ SunSmart campaign, changing the way Australians thought about sun protection.
1981 – Cancer became a notifiable disease – the Cancer Registry is later handed over to the WA Health Department, where it remains today.
1982 – We became an incorporated not-for-profit, non-government organisation.
In partnership with Silver Chain Nursing we helped to establish a Hospice Palliative Care Service.
The first Jack Clancy concert was held to raise funds for hospice care.
1983 – Our ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ pilot project began at selected primary schools
1985 – We established a counselling service for cancer patients, their families and friends.
The first Familial Adenomatous Polyposis registry in Australia was established.
1987 – Our Cottage Hospice in Shenton Park was opened – the first purpose-built, free standing hospice in the country.
We began to import and supply breast prostheses from Germany.
1988 – We supported former asbestos miners with mesothelioma in their struggle for compensation during lengthy trials in WA’s Supreme Court. Our Board was sued for defamation by lawyers acting for CSR-Midalco.
We commissioned a report which recommended that the State Government introduce a breast cancer screening program, which was later (1992) established by the WA Health Department after a public campaign. This service operates today as Breastscreen WA.
1989 – Australia’s first skin cancer prevention shop opens at our premises in Ord Street with the aim of making sun protection merchandise affordable. In the first four days of trading, 14, 000 sunglasses were sold and orders taken for another 15, 000. All states now sell Cancer Council merchandise turning over $12.8 million a year.
We partnered with the College of Dermatologists to provide free skin checks on Perth beaches and country areas.
Our Cancer Council branded sunscreen was launched.
1990 – After intense lobbying by a range of health promotion groups, led by Cancer Councils across the country, the Tobacco Control Act 1990 came into force to regulate the sale and promotion of tobacco.
We opened new retail shops in Subiaco and Perth city.
1991 – We provided $2 million for the upgrade of the Department of Radiotherapy at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.
We provided $500,000 to purchase equipment for bone marrow transplants for Royal Perth Hospital’s Department of Hematology. We also assisted with the establishment of the Bone Marrow Transplantation Registry.
Our Wig Service was established to provide wigs to women during cancer treatment.
The Western Australian Health Promotion Foundation, (known now as Healthway) was established under the Tobacco Control Act 1990.
We received $300,000 from Healthway for a pilot skin cancer program for 12-25 year olds.
1993 – We held our first nation-wide Daffodil Day fundraiser. The Jarvis family of Donnybrook donated 300,000 daffodils for sale.
1994 – We held our first Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea event.
Our Cancer Council 13 11 20 service was launched, thanks to a $100,000 grant from the AH Crawford Cancer Treatment Society.
Australia’s first Breast Cancer Day was held as breast cancer emerges as a major issue across the country – mastectomy patient Glenys Kirk appeared on the front page of The West Australian to raise breast cancer awareness.
Our first Regional Education Officers (REOs) were appointed in Albany, Geraldton, and Bunbury. REOs are still in these regional centres today along with Kalgoorlie, the Kimberley, Northam and Midland.
We held our first WA Daffodil Day street appeal at Perth train station.
1995 – We launched our Cancer Update Series.
Our day hospice at Shenton Park officially was opened by Doreen Crawford.
1997 – Our Western Australian Clinical Oncology Group (WACOG) was established.
Our Palliative and Supportive Care Education program (known then as the Rotary Palliative Care Education Centre) was established. The program provides unique palliative care education opportunities for health professionals across the state.
1998 – We celebrated our 40th Anniversary.
We established the first Cancer Council Chair of Behavioral Research in Cancer Control at Curtin University.
1999 – AH Crawford Lodge, our country patient accommodation in Nedlands, welcomed its first guests. The Lodge was built at a cost of $5 million raised through a capital appeal involving the corporate sector, led by Phillip Crabb.
The Crawford Lodge is named after the A.H. Crawford Cancer Treatment Society who made the biggest donation towards the building.
New regulations were introduced prohibiting smoking in enclosed public places, with exemptions for licensed premises such as pubs and clubs.
2000 – We established Make Smoking History, a state-wide tobacco control campaign, with support from the Department of Health and Healthway.
Our Make Smoking History ‘Target 15′ campaign aimed to reduce the prevalence of smoking among adults in WA to 15% or less. The ‘Nice people’ ad created for the campaign became the most highly awarded television commercial created in WA.
We established the GP Education Program to provide cancer education to health professionals, providing them with tools to better support their patients.
We ran the first State Cancer Conference. This conference is now a biennial event for clinicians, health professionals and consumers.
2001 – We opened our first Midwest Regional Centre in Geraldton.
We established our Regional Support Network in Geraldton. The program was initially funded by the Crawford Society to assist people affected by cancer in regional areas.
Our Parental Guidance Recommended (PGR) nutrition campaign began.
We established our Cancer Council Chair in Palliative and Supportive Care at Edith Cowan University
The role of cancer patients in decision making and services was recognised with the establishment of the Consumer Participation Project.
Relay for Life Perth was established.
2002 – The Fresh Start Program was established based on the highly successful smoking cessation program from Quit Victoria. Fresh Start delivered training for health professionals and group courses to help smokers quit.
We called on the State Government to use the review of Health (Smoking in Enclosed Public Places) Regulations 1999 as an opportunity to ban smoking in hotels, nightclubs and Burswood Casino.
2003 – We established our Cancer Council Chair of Clinical Cancer Research at The University of Western Australia.
Cancer Voices WA, a consumer led patient advocacy group, was established with our assistance.
The World Health Organisation adopted the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the world’s first global health treaty, with the aim of combating death and disease caused by tobacco.
Our cancer counselling program was established.
Relay for Life events in Geraldton and Bunbury were established.
The Parmelia Hilton became one of our major Corporate Partners, providing monthly pamper packages to cancer patients who have accessed our support services via a raffle run through our accommodation Lodges in Perth.
2004 – We joined 19 other health organisations in a bid to convince Federal Members of Parliament of the need to better inform smokers about the dangers of smoking.
Relay for Life Wheatbelt was established.
We established our Clive Deverall Society to thank the generous supporters who have chosen to leave us a gift in their Will. At the time, the society consisted of just 26 members, but has since grown to over 350.
2005 – We expanded our Regional Support Network across the state. Our Cancer Support Coordinators are now located in Albany, Midland, Mandurah, Northam, Gerladton, Bunbury and Busselton and provide over 10,000 occasions of support per year.
Ahead of the state election we released a ten-point election policy document setting out the political action needed to reduce the impact of smoking in WA.
We sold and vacated our Midwest Regional Centre property to move into the WA Country Health Services offices located at Geraldton Regional Hospital.
We launched our ‘Avoid the Cure’ campaign, the first campaign of its kind linking bodyweight and cancer.
The Busy Angels Network commenced which was the foundation to our Practical Assistance Program. Our Practical Assistance program continues to run today, providing specific services such as gardening, cleaning and child-minding; along with capped financial assistance for those experiencing hardship.
West Coast Eagles become one of our major Corporate Partners and the first Dig Deep game was played.
2006 – Our Make Smoking History campaign featuring Zita Roberts, a young Perth mother dying from lung cancer, became our most successful anti-smoking campaign.
The Tobacco Products Control Act 2006 was introduced, significantly strengthening controls on the marketing and supply of tobacco in Western Australia. Enclosed public places in pubs and clubs became smoke-free, and larger graphic health warnings began appearing on cigarette packages.
We began coordinating the Crunch&Sip program in WA schools.
2007– Our Life Now program was established based on research that demonstrated exercise is a powerful medicine for managing cancer.
Our Program of Experience in the Palliative Approach (PEPA) was established, offering palliative care education sessions and clinical observational experiences in palliative care services for health professionals.
Our first occupational and environmental cancer project commenced.
Relay for Life events in Peel-Mandurah and Great Southern were established.
We awarded our first Early Career Investigator grants to support WA cancer researchers to grow their careers in the field. One of our first recipients was Dr Daniel Galvao who was researching the role of resistance and aerobic exercise in reducing treatment side effects in men receiving ADT for prostate cancer. This research has translated into very real outcomes for people diagnosed with cancer and was instrumental in the development of our Life Now program.
2008 – We celebrated our 50th Anniversary.
We appointed our first Aboriginal Project Officer and ran our inaugural Aboriginal Cancer Education course focusing cancer prevention, screening and treatment in Indigenous communities.
WA Department of Health facilities were made smoke-free.
Relay for Life Joondalup was established.
2009 – Our Milroy Lodge in Shenton Park welcomed its first guests.
We launched our Get Behind Bowel Screening campaign, an advocacy effort aimed at improving the established screening program for bowel cancer.
The Improving Rural Cancer Outcomes (IRCO) research project was initiated to find out why regional West Australians with cancer have poorer cancer outcomes compared with metropolitan patients.
We produced the first medical imaging resource to help GPs increase their understanding of cancer risk and appropriate use of medical x-rays.
The Tobacco Products Control Amendment Act 2009 was passed in WA requiring all tobacco products to be out of sight at point of sale in retail outlets. Alfresco dining (with the exception of pubs), children’s playgrounds and patrolled beaches were also made smoke free.
Our Cancer Support Groups program was formalised with a grant from Cancer Australia.
2010 – Our free SunSmart app launched nationwide, providing Australians with real-time UV rating updates in their location.
Our Make Smoking History ‘Target 15′ campaign goal was reached with smoking prevalence reduced by 15% amongst West Australian adults.
The Federal Government announced a 25% increase in tobacco excise and fire-safe cigarettes became compulsory in Australia.
We established our PhD Top Up Scholarships to enable outstanding PhD students to pursue full-time study.
2011 – We helped to fund a study called, ‘A Whispered Sort of Stuff’, which explored Aboriginal peoples experiences of cancer in WA.
Our Find Cancer Early Campaign was established to improve cancer outcomes for regional West Australians. The findings from the 2009 Improving Rural Cancer Outcomes (IRCO) research project, which examined poorer cancer outcomes for regional West Australians compared with metropolitan patients, were instrumental in the development of the campaign.
Together with the Heart Foundation, Asthma Foundation WA, Public Health Advocacy Institute of WA, Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Australian Council on Smoking and Health we ran a full-page advertisement in the West Australian headlined ‘plainly the right decision,’ congratulating the Federal Government and Parliament on passing legislation for tobacco plain packaging.
2012 – We commissioned a report which showed that sun related injury at work had cost Australian employers $38 million over the past decade.
We funded Professor Anna Nowak’s research project exploring the combination of chemotherapy drugs and immunotherapy on mesothelioma cancer cells. The results showed much better outcomes than the use of chemotherapy drugs alone.
We partnered with the Department of Health and the Heart Foundation to tackle obesity, establishing our LiveLighter program.
Thanks to the generosity of Dorothy and Allan Smith, our South West Support Centre, Dot’s Place Bunbury, was opened to provide support programs to people affected by cancer in the South West region.
We launched our SunSmart website myUV.com.au to empower West Australians to protect themselves from the sun.
Through our Healthier Workplace WA and Make Smoking History programs we began providing smoking cessation and policy support to WA workplaces.
Australia became the first country in the world to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products. Perth grandfather John van Hamersveld became the face of one of the new cigarette packets.
The Federal Government announced $50 million in new funding for bowel cancer screening following more than six years of advocacy and campaigning by Cancer Councils across the country.
2013 – We opened our Wig service at Dot’s Place Bunbury.
We introduced distress screening in regional areas using an internationally recognised distress thermometer and problem list, allowing our Cancer Support Coordinators to escalate support for patients and carers in severe distress.
We launched a world-first campaign to explain the UV index and how to use it.
Our Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea fundraising campaign celebrated its 20th Anniversary.
We launched our Compass through Cancer campaign to help West Australians become familiar with the support services we have available for patients, family, carers and friends.
Relay for Life South Metro was established.
We established a cancer information hub at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, providing patients with resources and information about our support services.
We launched our KNOw Asbestos in Your Home online learning module to help home owners and renovators identify asbestos containing materials before beginning any renovations.
Hay Street, Murray Street and Forrest Place in Perth city went smoke-free.
The Australian government introduced an annual 12.5% tobacco excise. This will continue until 2020.
We established our partnership with Dry July.
2014 – Our Life Now exercise program was accredited with Exercise Sport Science Australia.
The National Health and Medical Research Council awarded a five year grant to our Healthy Living after Cancer program.
We began to manufacture UV meters for public open spaces. Our UV meters are now available for purchase in WA.
We launched our ‘Sonny Burns’ online SunSmart campaign to empower outdoor workers to protect themselves from the sun.
We led authorship of a paper that became a pivotal point in the advocacy efforts for the full roll out of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP). At the time modelling data showed 35,000 additional bowel cancer deaths could be prevented over the following 40 years if the NBCSP was rolled out within 5 years
Relay for Life events were established in Broome, Busselton and Exmouth, along with University relays at Curtin and UWA.
We wrote an open letter to Government members of WA Parliament advocating for a ban on commercial solarium operations.
BHP Billiton donated $1.1 million to us in response to a fire that occurred at our Gordon Basford House.
2015 – We established a cancer information hub at Fiona Stanley Hospital, providing patients with resources and information about our support services.
Through our advocacy promoting the dangers solarium use and calling on members of WA parliament to take action, commercial tanning units were banned in WA.
We launched our ‘Compass through Cancer’ app, designed to be used at our hospital information hubs, to enable West Australians to learn more about the support services we have available.
We convened with the Oceania Tobacco Control Conference alongside 360 other delegates from Australia and the wider Oceania region.
We launched our ‘16 Cancers’ Make Smoking History campaign which was later adopted for use in four other states, as well as in the US and UK.
Thanks to Dry July funding we were able to establish a Transport to Treatment program in Peel, Rockingham and Bunbury.
2016 – We introduced iPads to our cancer support centres and hospital information hubs to enable patients to access our Compass through Cancer app.
Our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) 2016-2017 was established to clearly articulate our commitment to closing the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous cancer-related deaths.
We launched our inaugural Cancer Council Lottery.
The Friends of Cancer Council WA South West Branch was established by Kerry James.
2017– Ahead of the state election we developed an advocacy website, urging people to sign our eleven-point election petition setting out the political action needed to improve outcomes for West Australians affected by cancer. As a result we secured a $1.36 million contract with the WA Department of Health to continue our Find Cancer Early program for regional West Australians.
Thanks to the generosity of Dorothy and Allan Smith, our Peel Support Centre, Dot’s Place Mandurah, was opened to provide support programs to people affected by cancer in the Peel region.
Our Aboriginal Advisory Group was established, consisting of key Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal health professionals, who work with us to implement our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) in consultation with Reconciliation Australia and provide direction and scope for culturally secure supportive care.
We launched our ‘Big Tobacco Corrective Statements’ Make Smoking History campaign to coincide with the commencement of court-ordered advertising by the US tobacco industry to correct misleading statements they have made about cigarettes and their health effects.
Our Stick it to Number 2 bowel cancer screening digital marketing campaign won advertising awards for its use of humour to encourage participation in bowel cancer screening.
We introduced our Keystones program in Bunbury and Albany, which consists of support and awareness presentations delivered on four key areas of concern for newly diagnosed patients – nutrition, exercise, emotions and finances.
We renovated our Crawford and Milroy Lodges allowing us to accommodate an extra 300 country cancer patients each year and significantly reduce waiting lists. The funding for these renovations was secured through a $1.5 million Lotterywest grant, $300,000 from Dry July fundraising and other private donations.
2018 – We celebrated our 60th Anniversary and marked the occasion by touring the state with our ‘Cancer Myths’ Roadshow to help bust common myths about cancer.
Seven additional funding agencies were brought together to support the new Collaborative Cancer Grant Scheme which supports early-to-mid career cancer researchers
The State Government appointed Cancer Council WA to take on the complete contracts to deliver the LiveLighter and Healthier Workplace WA campaigns.
A new partnership was formed with the Royal Flying Doctor Service: Western Operations to broaden the reach of our regional Find Cancer Early campaign
Cancer Council WA participates in our first WA Pride Parade, in support of the LGBTIQ+ community who face a higher risk of a number of cancers and encounter a range of barriers to support.
The State Government passes the Tobacco Products Control Amendment Bill 2017, making Western Australia the first state to ban under 18s from selling tobacco products.
Research from Cancer Council NSW showed that Australia is set to become the first country in the world to eliminate cervical cancer, following the success of the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine program and changes to the National Cervical Cancer Screening Program.
Our SunSmart schools program celebrates 20 years and having reached more than 200,000 Western Australian school children.
2019 – We officially opened our Cancer Supportive Care Centre at Fiona Stanley Hospital thanks to funding from Dry July. The Centre is our first in the south metropolitan area and offers psychosocial care, support and complementary therapies.
Our SunSmart program launches their new ‘Don’t let the sun see your DNA’ skin cancer campaign, highlighting the damage that UV exposure has on our skin.
In response to the increased number of people surviving a cancer diagnosis, we launch our Wellbeing after Cancer program. The personalised program is designed to introduce cancer survivors to practical information and guided discussion about adjusting to life following cancer treatment.
We launched our ’13 Cancers’ LiveLighter campaign that highlights the link to weight and the increased risk of 13 types of cancers.
Our research funding program marks 50 years of supporting Western Australia’s best and brightest cancer researchers, with more than $50 million spent across 1014 research projects.
2020 – We celebrated the 20th anniversary of Crawford Lodge. Since opening the doors 20 years ago, our Lodges have seen more than 67,000 check-ins from country cancer patients and their carers from across the state.
We launched our ‘Adopt a Room’ program to help provide the services our Lodges provide to country patients.
We received a grant from the Woodside COVID-19 Community Fund, enabling us to provide (for the first time) a dedicated Cancer Support Coordinator for the Kimberley and Pilbara regions.
The Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation introduced a red, black and white warning label on alcohol products about the harms from alcohol use during pregnancy.
We marked the 20-year anniversary of our flagship tobacco control program, Make Smoking History, while also launching our most graphic campaign yet, ‘Voice Box’, to illustrate the physical and emotional devastation of head and neck cancers caused by smoking.
2021 – We partnered with the Mental Health Commission for the new Alcohol.Think Again campaign ‘One Drink’. The campaign increased awareness that there is no safe amount or time to drink alcohol when pregnant or planning pregnancy.
On World Cancer Day 2021, we launched our Cancer Research Giving Day campaign, a special matched-giving campaign to raise funds for life-saving cancer research.
We launched a LiveLighter campaign targeting junk food delivery services, encouraging West Australian adults to lead healthier lives by eating well and being active.
We opened a standalone Cancer Council WA Midwest Regional Centre in Geraldton, after 15 years located within the Geraldton Regional Hospital.