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Our history

The 1990s

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 11 languages and a 6 month pilot project was held with women in the Greek and Spanish-speaking communities.

Dr E V Keogh

A biography of Dr E V Keogh was commissioned to recognise his achievements in the cancer field.

During 1990, the information service was redeveloped into a separate specialist section called the Cancer Information Service, jointly supervised by the Education Unit and the Social Service Policy Unit. With the addition of a dedicated manager and staff experienced in counselling, the Cancer Information Service was able to respond quickly and effectively to the needs of people enquiring about cancer. Its particular role was to help people with cancer (and their families and friends) to cope by providing information about their cancers and the support services available.

Between February and June 1990, inquiries directed to the Cancer Information Service increased in number from less than 400 per week to over 600 per week. Calls from people with cancer, their families and friends were responsible for most of the increase, with up to 40 such calls a day.

From the 1990 Annual Report:

" Dr Graham Giles has designed a long-term study of selected ethnic groups based on diet and certain aspects of lifestyle which will endeavour to establish links in the causation of cancer. This Health 2000 study, which will probably continue for some 20 years, was extensively vetted by appropriate international experts in the field of epidemiology. The Victorian Health Promotion Foundation has granted the funds to establish the study and the Executive Committee has made a long-term commitment to its support. This decision was made only after considerable thought and discussion and we believe that the potential value of the study is enormous."

From the 1991 Annual Report:

An update on the work of the Carden Fellow, Professor Don Metcalf.

"Professor Metcalf's work on colony stimulating factors (CSFs), substances which regulate the division and growth of normal white blood cells, was this year licensed for medical use in several countries. The laboratory team works with medical researchers at Royal Melbourne Hospital and the Ludwig Institute in Switzerland, monitoring cancer patients who are being treated with CSFs in clinical trials. Major studies during the year analysing the interaction between blood cell growth factors as they stimulate new cell formation, have lead to greater understanding of the processes involved."

Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop, former President, Chairman and Patron of The Cancer Council Victoria, died on the second of July 1993. He had been involved with the Cancer Council for over 25 years and was a well-known and well-loved figure amongst staff and volunteers alike.

Sir Edward joined the Executive Committee in the late 1960s. His ability to tackle difficult issues and his resilience in the face of fiery debate first lead him to become Chairman of the Executive Committee; Chairman of the Council from 1974 to 1980; President from 1980 to 1981 and Patron until he died.

Often better known for his wartime experiences than his medical achievements, Sir Edward was a surgeon prepared to tackle advanced cancers that others wouldn't touch.

Sir Edward's memory will live on at the Cancer Council in the Sir Edward Dunlop Cancer Fellowships, which began in 1994.

On the 9th of June, 1994, almost 10,000 Victorians participated in Australia's Biggest Coffee Morning. More than 500 coffee mornings were held around the state and raised $70,000 for the Cancer Council.

"Australia's Biggest Coffee Morning is a relatively new fundraiser and, along with Daffodil Day in September, is held nationally in conjunction with other state cancer organisations." (1994 Annual Report)

In December 1995, Professor Robert Burton became Director of the Cancer Council, taking over from Dr Nigel Gray who retired.

Dr Gray was appointed Director in 1968 and during his 28 years in the role "the Anti-Cancer Council grew dramatically in personnel, prominence and programs."

"Nigel Gray inherited a loosely knit organisation with good morale that was occupied effectively in much the same activities that exist today: supporting cancer research, implementing education plans and delivering programs, maintaining a cancer registry, administering social welfare support, providing information to the public and undertaking political action to restrict cigarette advertising. The missing ingredient in the above list was leadership, and Gray gave this to the Anti-Cancer Council during his time at the helm of the organisation." (1996 Annual Report). 

in 1991 the President of The Cancer Council Victoria, Mr W Allan Dick AO, was honoured on Australia Day. Mr Dick was President of the Council from 1982 to 2003 and was our longest-serving volunteer, having served since 1955.

From the 1997 Annual Report:

"The Genetics Advisory Committee of our Victorian Cooperative Oncology Group submitted a proposal to the State Government Department of Human Services in early 1996 for a Colorectal Cancer Clinical Genetics (Family Bowel Cancer) Service for Victoria. This proposal for the first total population family bowel cancer initiative in the world was funded in the 1996-97 State Budget. It involves a Clinical Genetics Service at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, where clinical geneticists, genetic counsellors and cancer specialists assess new families, a DNA diagnostic laboratory at the Murdoch Institute at the Royal Children's Hospital where inherited cancer predisposition genes will be tested, and, at the Anti-Cancer Council, a genetic register for recording families carrying cancer predisposition genes. This initiative has the potential to prevent most deaths from colorectal cancer in families where faulty cancer predisposition genes are inherited."  

In 1997 satirist John Clarke became a member of our governing Council. He was also involved in some highly successful anti-smoking campaigns.

From the 1998 Annual Report:

"One of our key initiatives this year has been to establish the first Victorian Cancer Control Research Institute.

The Institute will concentrate our efforts in behavioural and epidemiological cancer research and will become the new home of our public health education programs and resources. The Institute will allow these activities to work better together and allow for current and projected expansion.

Our current premises will be retained. The Institute is an extension of the Anti-Cancer Council; as we increase our efforts in fundraising, research and education, our Rathdowne St premises will become insufficient.

A highlight of the fundraising year for the Anti-Cancer Council has been the provision of a $1 million grant from Tattersall's towards the foundation of the Institute.

Our task for 1998 will be to find a building in which to house the Institute and open for business."

From the 1999 Annual Report:

"In 1998, the enormous amount of dietary assessment methodology work that underpinned the Melbourne Collaborative Cohort Study was used to produce Lifetrack 2000 - a dietary guide for individuals that tailors advice according to people's reported eating patterns. This is a good example of how some research activities can find an immediate application for cancer control. Lifetrack 2000 is based on a questionnaire used in the cohort study, the prostate cancer control study and in over a dozen other projects currently in progress around Australia."


Relay For Life, a relay-style fundraising event, is introduced in Australia. The first, single event raised $75,000: it has now grown to include many events around Victoria and Australia and has become the Cancer Council's biggest fundraising event.