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Our history

The 1980s

Sid the Seagull:

1981 Annual Report: "Skin cancer in Victoria is too common to county but it is undoubtedly the cancer affecting more people than any other. Infrequently lethal, it nevertheless causes much avoidable discomfort and disfigurement. Last summer the Life Be In It trio Phillip Adams, Peter Best and Alex Stitt created an animated song-singing skin cancer crusading seagull for television.

"This little bird admonishes us to SLIP SLOP SLAP - that is, Slip on a top, Slop on a sunscreen and Slap on a hat as precautions against skin cancer. So successful was the limited pilot testing of this 60-second advertisement that it is to be used by other states through the Australian Cancer Society and adapted for print, radio and other media."

Sid the Seagull's TV advertisement

1981 Annual Report:

"During the next 6 months a recruitment and training program is to be organised in order that a patient who has recently had a mastectomy can, if she wishes, be visited by a volunteer visitor - a fellow mastectomee who has been disease free for a minimum of 2 years and has adjusted to the change in her self image and resumed her normal lifestyle. These visits will only proceed with the surgeon's approval, and confidentiality will be preserved."

The 1982 Chairman's report says:

"We welcome the development of the Cancer Crusade Units, which were discussed in last year's Annual Report and which have been expanded both in size and number this year. The Crusade Units have given valuable support to our fundraising and education programmes and we hope that the network will continue to develop and to give us access to both our supporters and the people who need us in country areas."

During 1982 the Cancer Crusade Units raised $30,757 which was $17,428 more than in 1981. Volunteers in the Units numbered 550.

By the end of 1982, Units had been established in Bairnsdale, Frankston, Horsham, Kerang, Lakes Entrance, Maryborough, Portland, Sale, Shepparton, Swan Hill, Traralgon, Wangaratta and Warrnambool.  

During 1981, the Cancer Registry took delivery of its first computer visual display terminal which was connected to the Cancer Council's own computer. A gradual transfer to compiling Registry master tapes "within-house" took place and once completed, all incoming Registry data was entered at the Registry itself. Analysis of the data was carried out using Melbourne University's Computer Centre.

1982 Annual Report:

"With our assistance, several schools in Victoria are experimenting with "peer lead" programmes of smoking education. In these programmes older children lead younger children in a series of "lessons" about smoking. Smoking recruitment among adolescents is largely a social phenomenon characterised by peer pressure so this strategy not only acknowledges that fact but attempts to turn it to advantage. Negotiations have commenced with the Education Department to continue developmental work on peer leadership with a view to wider dissemination should it prove effective and feasible."

1982 was the first "incidence year" for the Victorian Cancer Registry. The statistics from 1982 formed the basis of the Registry's first annual statistical report in 1984. There were almost 13,000 cancers registered in 1982 (excepting skin cancers other than melanoma) and over 7000 Victorians died of cancer in that year. This information was illustrated in the form of pie charts for males and females separately.

CANSTAT was, at that time, a quarterly digest of cancer facts and figures produced by the Registry. It was widely distributed within Australia. Each issue was thematic and the topics covered included skin cancer, paediatric cancers, lung cancer and breast cancer. 


Graham GilesIn 1983 the Cancer Registry appointed its first Director, Dr Graham Giles, who was previously Research Fellow and Lecturer in Epidemiology with the University of Tasmania. The 1983 Annual Report says "Our ability to attract such a well-qualified epidemiologist as Director augers well for the future development of Registry information services and cancer epidemiology in Victoria.  

Earlier this week the Australian media reported an increase in occupational cancer rates. A Queensland Cancer Fund study made front-page news around the country.

Occupational cancer is not a new issue as the 1983 Annual Report shows:

"The Government of Victoria has shown an increased interest in cancer related to occupation since the election in 1982. The Minister of Health established a Working Party to examine the feasibility of collecting worthwhile information on occupational cancer."

The Cancer Council's Director Nigel Gray was named Chairman of the Working Party. He presented 2 major suggestions: firstly, that trials be done to improve the quality of occupational information flowing to the Cancer Registry; and secondly, that the Government should establish an investigative unit to examine occupational exposures to materials suspected of causing cancer, and the outcome of such exposures.

"Occupational cancer is an important but difficult field in which to work. Such cancer probably accounts for 4% - 8%of all cancer, but cancer rates in the groups of people actually exposed by occupation to cancer causing substances many be extremely high.

The central problem involved the establishment and recording of occupational exposures as part of the job history of any individual. Theses histories are difficult to acquire, hard to classify, potentially expensive, and require some invasion of privacy of both employee and employer. The problem is less likely to be solved by a bureaucratic control system than it is by a creative research group which has the goodwill of both employers and unions. It has not yet been solved in other parts of the world." (Director's Report, 1983 Annual Report)  

From the 1984 Annual Report:

Space within the pleasant building in Jolimont had been in short supply for some years. In addition there had been a serious parking problem for volunteer workers and committee members. A suitable property has been purchased at 1 Rathdowne St, Carlton. The Jolimont premises were sold prior to the move into Rathdowne St.

The new premises are centrally located and provide ample parking for committee members and visitors. For medium term at least, we have more than adequate space and excellent meeting facilities.  

From the 1984 Annual Report:

"One of our most important supporters is a lone Crusader, Mr Norman Clark, who untiringly rattles tins and sells our merchandise on a stall in Rosebud each week. His efforts have produced a magnificant $15,500 this year, and we are extremely grateful for the unselfish support of this caring and dedicated gentleman who is well known throughout the Mornington Peninsula as the 'cancer man'."

From the 1985 Annual Report:

"Over the last 12 months, the Co-ordinator of Social Service Policy has responded to requests from community representatives, hospitals, and Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria Volunteer Country Units to assist cancer support groups to get started. The Council's role has been that of a consultant, linking groups so that they can learn from one another, making our resources available and conducting workshops for volunteers and other professionals. Later in the year, a statewide gathering of cancer support groups is planned. Cancer support groups are limited in number and not all people with cancer have access to such support."

From the 1986 Annual Report:

"The year of the Council's 50th Anniversary has been, appropriately, the most eventful in its history. Support from the public, traditionally generous, has reached an all time high. This has enabled the Council to establish two completely new programs, with confidence that the reserves specifically accumulated, plus forecast income, will be able to sustain the programs in the longer term.

The program of behavioural research will be the responsibility of the newly established Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, directed by Dr David Hill. The program of epidemiological research will be the responsibility of Dr Graham Giles as Director of the Cancer Epidemiology Centre.

Popular presenter Daryl Somers is a spokesman for the Quitline, encouraging Victorians to take up the challenge to Quit. Daryl Somers 

During 1986, the Social Service Policy Unit investigated the need for patient education programs and examined those currently operating both in Australia and overseas. As a result ' Living With Cancer' was developed.

The practical program aimed to offer the patient and family members the opportunity to learn more about all aspects of cancer - for example, treatments, psychosocial aspects, causes, myths, self-care, health maintenance, communication with others, community resources, and coping.

The program was designed to run for 6 to 8 weeks with Cancer Council trained leaders. The joint program involved the Council's education and social service units, cancer patients, family members, social workers, educators, clergy, and cancer specialists.

From the 1987 Annual Report:

Photo: David White with Victorian schoolchildren"There has been much publicity recently about the role of diet in causing cancer. Large epidemiology studies looking at different populations have estimated that up to 35% of cancer may be related in some way to our diet. Because of this and public interest in information on diet and cancer, the Council has developed a new health education program related to diet. A new cookbook, Gabriel Gate's Family Food, has been produced. There are over 150 recipes on how to create exciting food while following the prudent diet guidelines."

The Victorian Tobacco Bill was passed in 1987, which changed the nature of the battle to eradicate tobacco-associated disease, and established the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation. Years of intense lobbying by the Cancer Council, against strong lobbying from the tobacco industry, finally brought about its introduction.


"The recently passed tobacco legislation is a significant step forward but must be followed up on a variety of fronts to eliminate all forms of cigarette advertising and seek more effective ways of motivating people of all ages not to smoke or to give up smoking.." - 1988 Annual Report.

Poet Raymond J Bartholomeuz delivers the Quitter's Chant to the then Minister for Health, The Honourable David White, at a Quit Campaign launch. The chant reads, in part, ‘Did you know that Stuyvesant is Dutch for no future?'

Photo: Raymond J Bartholomeuz with David White

A new breast cancer screening project (mammography) is offered to women between the ages of 50 to 69 in the Essendon area.  Results from this pilot study mean breast cancer screening will be made available to women throughout Victoria.

The Cancer Council acknowledges the vital work done by over 2000 volunteers throughout the state. Without these dedicated people helping with fundraising, donor mailouts, working in our shops and many other important tasks, the Cancer Council would not have been able to reach its current levels of achievement.

Smoking Sux RoolyKylie Mole, a comic creation of Melbourne comedienne Maryanne Fahey, chalks an important health message on a Melbourne footpath.

The Cancer Council’s unique Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer becomes internationally recognised. Representatives from Canadian cancer organisations visit the centre to find out how it is run, in hope of setting up a similar organisation in their own country.

A yacht bearing the SunSmart campaign logo is the first over the line in the prestigious Melbourne to Hobart yacht race. Mr John Lake, who owns the boat, agreed to have his yacht renamed to alert people about the importance of protecting your skin to prevent skin cancer.

Dr David McCaughey, Governor of Victoria, opens Health 2000 (now Health 2020), a long-term study by our Cancer Epidemiology Centre that seeks to discover which aspects of health and lifestyle help to protect against cancer.  

The 1989 Annual Report announces several new initiatives:

"In May, a Bill to establish the Victorian Cervical Cytology Register passed through the Victorian Parliament. The Council was involved in drafting this legislation and we are confident that the new Registry will be an historic step forward in our efforts to control cancer of the cervix.

Two new patient support initiatives are being planned, the first being the formalisation of the 'Living With Cancer' education program which aims to give cancer patients and their families more knowledge of their disease and to encourage them to develop self-help skills to improve their quality of life. Now that the period of development and evaluation is complete, the program will be conducted by trained facilitators in community centres around Victoria.

Photo: Pat CashThe second patient support initiative is a major restructuring of the Cancer Information Service. Telephone calls from people with cancer or from their families and friends will be directed to a group of specially trained resource people who can give information and support. There is an increasingly obvious need within the community for such backup and support services."

Famed tennis player Pat Cash promotes the Quit message. 

The Government makes history by passing the first ever private member's Bill to implement a ban on print advertising of tobacco and tobacco products.  This means that there will no longer be cigarette and tobacco advertisements in newspapers and magazines.  

In 1990, women with a limited understanding of English became a new target group for public education campaigns in cancer of the cervix and also in breast cancer. The brochure "Every Woman Should Have A Pap Test" was made available in eleven languages and a 6-month pilot project was held with women in the Greek and Spanish-speaking communities.