SunSmart - Celebrating 30 years of protecting Victorians

Transcript: Singing - the sun has got his hat on - hip, hip, hip, hooray! The sun has got his hat on and he's coming out today...

Radio announcer: Now for the weather...
Weather person: Thanks Pete. We've had our hottest November ever and it'll be a sunny start to December.

Voice over: The year was 1980. Hundreds of thousands of bronzed Aussies were enjoying the sun, sand and surf on beaches around the country. It was a time of excess and INXS as our population indulged and prospered. Unsuspecting that anything they were doing had any dangerous consequences.

But with melanoma rates also soaring up the charts, something had to change their minds, and fast.

SunSmart - Celebrating 30 years of protecting Victorians

Phillip Adams: We came up with the notion of some music to tell people to be careful. Rather than serious, soulful, solemn table thumping. We decided to follow the Life Be In It principle and to do it light.

So Alex came up with the idea of a seagull, and Peter wrote a wonderful song based on the proposition of slip, slop, slap. And within a couple of months it became one of the most established and best known ads in the country.

But it wasn't simply a campaign that people enjoyed. The advice - so logical, so simple, so easy to remember, was widely followed.

Sid the Seagull (singing): say these simple words - slip, slop, slap. Sounds like a breeze when you say it like that. Slip, slop, slap, in the sun this summer say, slip, slop, slap.

Voice over: In 1988, with support of the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, a new program called SunSmart was born. SunSmart took a broader skin cancer control program to the public through TV advertising, and the sponsorship of quintessential, Aussie outdoor sports.

Dean Jones: Whenever you're outside playing or watching cricket, remember - the sun is dangerous. So don't be unsmart, be SunSmart. It's as easy as slip, slop, slap.

Voice over: In the early 1990s change was on our sun-kissed horizon. The message was starting to get through to some groups but SunSmart was aware that certain people - particularly young men - were still not heeding the message. So they became our focus.

The program began to focus on community groups. Schools and kindergartens were getting on board with the SunSmart message and today the SunSmart schools program is one of the most successful public health programs in primary schools, reaching more than 400,000 Victorian children.

In the mid-90s, despite high awareness of the slip, slop, slap message, it was nirvana's teen spirit that continued to cause the most concern - young people continued to fry themselves in the sun.

Newsreader: Despite the warnings 100,000 young Victorians are getting themselves sun burnt every weekend. Their exposure to harmful ultra violet rays means they're increasing they're risk of skin cancer.

Voice over: SunSmart decided to create an edgy campaign designed to get the message across with some attitude.

Advertisement: One of those nasty little buggers is being cut out right now. So unless you want to end up wearing your bum on your nose...

Voice over: In 2000 the Y2K bug turned out to be a fizzer and the information age continued to broaden our horizons. SunSmart moved with the times, again creating a clever and edgy campaign.

In 2005 the slip, slop, slap campaign needed a rev up, so the SunSmart message extended from slip, slop, slap to include seek shade and slide on sunglasses.

(Sid the seagull sings)

Sun safety in the workplace was reinforced and workplaces were supported to implement UV policies.

News reader: If something looks amiss on this building site it's probably the absence of bare chests and the popularity of hats. And if work cover minister Rob Hulls gets his way, that trend will continue across Victoria.

Rob Hulls (Work safe minister): The days of singlet tops and footy shorts on work sites are over.

Voice over: One of the most tragic and inspiring moments from this decade was Clare Oliver - the brave woman who dedicated the final days of her life to telling Australians about the dangers of solariums.

Clare Oliver: In one week and a bit it's my 26th birthday and I sit here and I don't even know if I'm gonna make that.

Voice over: Her messages inspired ground breaking legislation in Victoria to regulate solariums. Today we've seen the Victorian solarium industry halve in size.

When you think about how we baked ourselves in the sun 30 years ago, to how smart we are today, the sunsmart program has been incredibly successful in shifting perceptions and changing behaviours. It's now part of the Australian psyche and culture.

SunSmart - Celebrating 30 years of protecting Victorians

Updated: 04 Dec, 2012