Australia's Biggest Morning Tea

Every dollar raised makes an incredible difference

Register Now

Our history

The 1960s

Anti-smoking campaigns

Peter HudsonThe first pamphlet to help smokers give up was produced in 1967. The Cancer Council also highlighted the harmful substances in cigarette tar, advising smokers to choose a low-tar brand.

At the same time it was pressing the Commonwealth Government for compulsory labelling of tar content and arranged for tar testing of cigarettes at Monash University with publication of the results. Subsequently the National Health and Medical Research Council recommended to the Government similar action. The tobacco industry reacted to the pressure by marketing cigarettes with a lower tar content. The average tar content showed a marked reduction over the next few years.

Football legend Peter Hudson agreed to front an important campaign to help highlight the health risks of smoking.

The Cancer Council produced a pamphlet, Smoking and your health and 80,000 copies were distributed. Leave it to the chimneys , a 12-minute anti-smoking film, was also produced.

Organisational changes 

The Victorian Cancer Congress, held under the auspices of the Cancer Council in the University of Melbourne in August, 1960, was the first of its kind in Australia. It was an outstanding success. The Congress proved a powerful stimulus to increased activity in the field of cancer, not only in Victoria, but throughout Australia.

More than 500 people attended, with 14 world authorities invited to lead discussions, including speakers from Great Britain, the USA, India, Israel, New Zealand and Canada. An outstanding feature of the Congress was the Scientific Exhibition. It featured 40 exhibits of 'a very high standard' covering every aspect of cancer, and attracted large and interested audiences.

In 1962 grants from the Cancer Council enabled the development of cytological services in city and country hospitals. At the same time a young David Hill , who'd been doing some work for the Cancer Council while completing an Arts Degree, was appointed part-time assistant to the Education Officer. He would become Education Officer, Director of Education, Deputy Director, foundation Director of the Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer and then Cancer Council Director in 2003, earning a Masters degree, PhD, Order of Australia honours and other accolades for his work along the way.

Nigel GrayA 60-second TV spot on the seven warning signs of cancer was produced and won a sectional award at an international film competition: the only non-American film to win an award.

In 1968 the Cytology Centre was examining pap smears at the rate of 80,000 per year and  Dr Nigel Gray became Director of the Cancer Council. In the words of former President, W Allan Dick, Dr Gray transformed the Cancer Council ‘from a highly respected medical charity into a cancer control enterprise affecting most Victorians'.


An appeal in 1965 raised more than $600,000, with a notable survey into public reaction to the appeal. Callers engaged in house-to-house collections reported that almost invariably they met with a friendly reception, an indication that the Council's work was both well-known and appreciated.

Students from Melbourne and Monash Universities helped callers in the door knock section, and nearly 70% of homes visited made a donation. The occupants of over 10% had previously made a contribution to the appeal.

The survey disproved the statement so often made that householders resented door-knock collections. Of the several thousand interviewed, only 3% voiced objections to door knocks in general or to this one in particular. The great majority of people welcomed this form of direct giving, at least for such a cause as cancer.

Annual Report snippets

The Cancer Council's 1960 Annual Report mentioned the work of Dr John Colebatch, who was engaged in a clinical study of leukaemia treatment at the Royal Children's Hospital.

"While leukaemia is inevitably fatal, newer methods of treatment prolong life, usually for many months, sometimes for years. The new drugs used for treatment may have unwelcome and unpleasant side effects and formerly children were kept in hospital for the entire period of treatment. Dr Colebatch finds that, during the period of extension of life, the children can be kept well and happy, leading practically normal lives at home, even attending school, by careful management in spacing treatment with drugs and transfusion."

In 1962, Dr Colebatch was awarded the Cancer Council's Robert Fowler Travelling Fellow and travelled overseas to learn more about the use of chemotherapy. The 1967 Annual Report gives an update of Dr Colebatch's progress.

"Further improvement has been obtained in the results of treatment. The first patient with acute leukaemia to survive for as long as 3 years was noted in 1962. Now the total number has risen to 19, of whom 9 are alive after treatment for 3 to 7 years. When it is realised that as recently as 10 years ago the average child with acute leukaemia survived about 6 weeks the importance of Dr Colebatch's work is obvious."  

From the 1968 Annual Report:

"1968 has been an eventful year for the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria. Probably the most important single event is the change in our financial outlook...

"The Council considers that major public appeals have, over the last ten years, proved progressively less fruitful, and it has accordingly directed its attention towards alternative techniques of fundraising.

"Our endeavour to interest a large number of donors in making regular contributions both large and small has been met with considerable success. While we must emphasise that our future financial position remains in doubt, the encouraging response of so many people indicates that our regular financial deficit should be reduced."

A permanent Appeals Committee was appointed to consider ways of raising money for the Council's work on a more permanent basis. A direct donation scheme was developed. Many thousands of people were approached and about 12,000 signed up as contributors. The Committee hoped to attract 40,000 regular annual donors.  


In 1960 the Cancer Council relied on 6 methods to get its education messages across:

  1. Meetings: 160 were held during the year, an increase of 100 on the previous 12 months.
  2. Films: The Cancer Council had a selection of 30 films, many of which were screened at the public meetings.
  3. Literature: A 30-page booklet 'What You Should Know About Cancer' was published during the year, and more than 50,000 copies of the leaflet 'Cancer Facts for You' were distributed.
  4. Posters: 5,000 copies of early warning signs posters were distributed throughout Victoria. A set of 7 posters was specially designed and became available in June 1960. The quality of the design was such that the complete set was displayed in the Museum of Modern Art.
  5. Cancer Education Weeks: In March 1960 the Bendigo regional committee pioneered the first Cancer Education Week to be held in Australia. About 3,600 people, or 10% of the Bendigo population, attended. Similar weeks were held in Horsham and Wangaratta.
  6. Newspaper and radio publicity: The public was kept informed through regional and metropolitan press and radio.

From the 1962 Annual Report:

"The latest extension to the public education programme is a Mobile Information Unit, which went into service in May. The Unit consists of a motor vehicle, designed to carry display panels, film projection equipment, and a prefabricated information stall.

"The Unit's principal function is to expand the education campaign in country areas, but it will also be used in support of a special educational programme for business and industrial concerns which is now being developed."     

In 1961, You Are not Alone, the story of a woman with breast cancer, was developed by the Cancer Council and shown in commercial cinemas. By 1964 the Cancer Council received a number of national and international awards for its public education campaigns.

  • First prize in the 8 sheet poster section on the National Outdoor Advertising Art Competition for the Council's poster "Cancer of the Breast"
  • First prize in the Public Transport Sections of the National Advertising Art Competition with the anti-smoking display on trams
  • Public Service Trophy of the Hollywood Advertising Club, USA, with the 60-second television short. (This was the only non-American film to win an award from more than 1500 entries.)

Sir Edward Weary Dunlop painting1963 saw the launch of a cancer education service directed at migrant communities in Victoria.

In 1966 Sir Edward (‘Weary') Dunlop was elected Vice President of the Cancer Council. The regard in which he was held by Victorians undoubtedly benefited the Cancer Council's fundraising projects.

The 1966 Annual Report stated:

"The Council's newsletter 'Victorian Cancer News' which is now issued every 2 months provides information on local and international developments. It is sent free of charge to interested persons and the circulation has increased notably in the past year.

"Education material published in Cancer News is not restricted to its subscribers, it is widely quoted in the metropolitan, suburban and country press."  

The Cancer Council's newsletter had 15,000 readers.

In 1966-67, the Education Committee, through newly appointed education officer David Hill, sponsored a teaching aid for schools in the form of a smoking machine' which collected tar from the cigarette it smoked. With the use of the machine a schools teaching kit was prepared under the joint sponsorship of the Department of Health and the Cancer Council. Four smoking machines were in continuous use in schools by 1968.  


During 1965 the Cancer Council's Carden Fellow Dr. Don Metcalf was one of 12 scientists invited by the governments of France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain and the United States to meet in Lyons, France, to discuss the desirability and feasibility of setting up a new International Agency for Cancer Research. The Committee recommended that such an agency be established and outlined its suggested scientific program. Before returning to Australia, Dr. Metcalf made brief visits to the Chester Beatty Institute for Cancer Research in London and the Karolinksa Institute, Stockholm.

Public education was expanded during 1959-60 with the establishment of 11 regional and 127 district committees. The main function of the committees was to investigate the needs of cancer sufferers in their areas, assist them where necessary and promote cancer education.

In November 1959 a conference of delegates from these committees was held in Melbourne to enable them to discuss with Cancer Council representatives problems in their area. The conference was extremely successful, with 120 delegates attending. The conference resulted in an intensification of cancer education throughout Victoria.