Vale Dorothy Reading OAM

Wednesday 12 June, 2019

Dorothy Reading

Cancer Council Victoria is deeply saddened by the death of public health pioneer and leader, Dorothy Reading OAM.

Dorothy played a major role in establishing successful cancer prevention programs such as Quit, PapScreen Victoria, SunSmart at the Cancer Council Victoria as well as BreastScreen Victoria, all household names today that continue to save thousands of lives.

Dorothy was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2017 for her outstanding leadership in cancer control over more than three decades in cancer prevention. Mostly working behind the scenes, Dorothy influenced public debate, motivated Victorian legislative and policy reform and stood up to the powerful tobacco industry. Put simply Victoria would be a very different place today if it wasn’t for the tireless work, fierce intelligence and benevolent watch of Dorothy and her dedication to public health.

Dorothy's surname will be familiar to many book lovers - she co-founded the successful Readings bookshop in Carlton before a career change led her to Cancer Council Victoria. She began work in 1986 as coordinator of the Council's smoking prevention program, Quit Victoria. It was a pioneering role and with a high degree of creativity and professionalism, Dorothy built the foundations of one of the world's leading tobacco control programs.

During her time at Quit, Dorothy was among a key group of experts who achieved a major reform in Victoria - the end of tobacco promotions on billboards and outside shops. The change was adopted nationally and internationally, and later extended to other forms of tobacco advertising and promotion. Dorothy's work was crucial in achieving community and political support for Victoria's landmark Tobacco Act of 1987, and the establishment of the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth).

Dorothy did not stop there. She turned her considerable talents to building other cancer prevention programs including BreastScreen Victoria, PapScreen Victoria and SunSmart. Dorothy served on the board of BreastScreen Victoria for 19 years, and a similar period on the board of the Victorian Cytology Service. She chaired Cancer Council Australia's public health committee for six years and led development of its comprehensive National Cancer Prevention Policy.

It's remarkable to think about the changes that have occurred since Dorothy began her work in cancer control. Smoking rates have more than halved - in 1985, 32 per cent of Victorians were regular smokers, compared to less than 13 per cent today. Across Australia, the number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer has halved since the introduction of organised screening in 1991.

The Cancer Council today is the organisation it is today because of Dorothy. She was as proud of the Cancer Council as we are proud of her.

The Cancer Council extends its condolences to Dorothy’s loving family and her diverse network of very special friends.