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Dr Nigel Gray AO passed away on Friday, December 20, 2014 leaving behind a legacy of pioneering work in the areas of tobacco control and cancer prevention. Dr Gray’s lifelong work paved the way for modern cancer control and he will be sorely missed.

He had an impact on so many lives – in both his professional and personal life, and we would love to share your memories.

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Recent Tributes

Louis Santin
Nigel and I shared the drive of his historic Singer Le Mans sports car, competing in many hill climbs and track events. His love of driving to and from events in the same car that he competed in was not the norm but showed how much fun he was able to get out of life. I imagine he planned his competitive attempt at these hills around Victoria with the same gusto as he applied to other areas of his life. I am indebted to him for allowing me to share these events and cementing my interest in vintage motor sport. He will be dearly missed but never forgotten.

Professor Judith Mackay, Hong Kong SAR China, Asian Consultancy on Tobacco Control, Senior Advisor to WHO, Bloomberg WLF, and Gates Foundation
Nigel was one of the grandfathers of tobacco control, with a reach that extended far beyond the shores of Australia. For example, he made a massive difference to the whole of Asia stemming from his very early visits to Hong Kong more than a quarter of a century ago and, as his vision spread, the rest is history. It is hard to imagine tobacco control without Nigel’s guiding hand on the tiller. He leaves a towering legacy on a global scale. I remember him with great respect professionally, and with gratitude for our friendship.

The Rt Hon Robert Doyle, Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Melbourne Town Hall, Swanston Street, Melbourne, City of Melbourne
I remember Nigel so fondly and honour his public health legacy. I remember asking him “What’s the best thing we can do to improve public health?”. His answer was “Stop young girls smoking”. He was right. He will be missed, but what a towering legacy. Love to all the family. Robert

Trevor Leech, Melbourne, Singer Car Club of Australia
The thoughts of the Singer Car fraternity worldwide are with Ann and family in their sad loss. Our common interest with Nigel in his involvement with his other passion, his Singer Le Mans sports car inspired us. I will personally miss him on our trips to Hillclimbs and race meetings where we shared our thoughts and passion for sporting motoring in our Singer Le Mans. Nigel walked tall and was inspirational in everything he did.

Luk Joossens, Brussels, Belgium, Association of European Cancer Leagues
One of my first visits for Tobacco Control was London in January 1978. I visited ASH and its Director, Mike Daube. He advised me to be in contact with Kjell Bjartveit and Nigel Gray. Which I did. It was an excellent advice. Both man teached me how to do my job. I have met Nigel at many meetings around the world and got huge support from him. When I lost EU funding for tobacco control in 1996, Nigel was the chair of UICC and he proposed me to work as a consultant to UICC. Thank you Nigel for your leadership and friendship.

Aminul Islam Sujon, Dhaka, Work for a Better Bangladesh
He is a great inspiration for many of us on tobacco control and cancer prevention. He is committed, passionate and self motivated activist and health practitioner. The global tobacco control and cancer prevention community may inspire from his contribution. I personally feel happy that I have met him several times at various places in world (APACT/WCTOH) and had short chat with him.

Susanne Baxandall, Melbourne
Nigel Gray a true leader in public health and cancer care, also a live well lived. It was a privilege to know and work with you .

Dr Lyn Roberts AM, Melbourne
From my time with ASH to when I became involved in the complexity of working with cancer organisations, Nigel's enthusiasm, commitment and support helped focus my work in prevention and cancer control. During my recent years as CEO of the Heart Foundation he continued to keep in touch. Like so many others, I am grateful for his friendship and wise counsel and I applaud his outstanding leadership and legacy.

Shane Kawenata Bradbrook, Aotearoa-New Zealand
Ko te mihi nei ki te Rangatira! Takato mai ra! Moe mai ra!Tena ra koe mo ou whakaaro, moemoea, wawata mo te kaupapa auahi me tupeka kore; te kaupapa whakahirahira. Tena koe mo tou awhi me tautoko ki ahau. Tena koe, tena koe, tena koe. Ki te whanau pani i te wa pouri, he mihi aroha. Kia kaha mai ra.Thanks Nigel for your time, commitment and passion on this important issue. Arohanui.

Philippe Boucher, France , Comité National Contre le Tabagisme
J'ai rencontré Nigel Gray lors d'une conférence pour activistes organisée à La Haye en 1989 ou 1990. J'y assistais avec Vitold Zatonski, bien avant qu'il organise à grande échelle la lutte en Pologne. J'étais moi-même au début de mes initiatives en France. Ce qu'il avait accompli dans l'Etat de Victoria et ses explications sur la stratégie à suivre nous ont montré que c'était possible: on pouvait vaincre l'industrie du tabac, on pouvait organiser la prévention. C'est une leçon qui a nourri nos efforts dans les années qui ont suivi. Il avait le souci de la dimension internationale qui est fondamentale dans cette lutte, il avait la gentillesse et l'élégance de partager sa grande expérience avec nous qui étions débutants. Toute une génération d'activistes lui doit d'avoir développé l'ambition de gagner et d'essayer de mettre en place un système ressemblant à ce qui avait été créé dans l'Etat de Victoria. Merci Nigel.

Doreen Akkerman, AM, Australia, Strategic Health Communications International
I returned to Australia from the USA in 1990 and was extremely lucky to obtain a position with the Cancer Council and meet Nigel Gray. He was well known for his work in tobacco control but he also realised how much ongoing support people affected by cancer and their families needed so instigated international research into cancer information and support and headed up the team which set up the Cancer Helpline in 1990. Over the following years, the Victorian Model was used in all States in Australia, in all regions in Canada and in Singapore. The Cancer Information and Support Service was internationally recognised and was set up at a gold standard where it remains to this day. Men like Nigel Gray are not met very often. I have the deepest respect for him and offer my condolences to Ann and family. Doreen Akkerman, AM

Helen Allen, Mornington
Dr Nigel Gray was a great man for whom I had great admiration. I was fortunate to be employed at the ACCV during the exciting years of the 1980’s and 90’s when, under Nigel’s Directorship and leadership, so many new health initiatives were introduced at and by the Council. ASH, QUIT, VicHealth, Breastscreen, Centre for Behavioural Research into Cancer, Cancer Epidemiology Centre, the Shop, Cancer Information Centre (and others) and the funding of major cancer research, in particular Don Metcalf’s discovery of GCSF’s (of which I was to benefit five years ago). He was a man of great charm, intellect, and a good friend and counsellor. We kept in touch after his retirement from the Council when I enjoyed being on his email list to read his “Oddysseys” from Europe and then occasional lunches on his return to Oz (as he called it). I appreciated his concern, encouragement and support during my, and my so very recently deceased husband Ken’s, cancer treatments. He was a lovely, interesting man whose life has made a difference. Thank you Nigel.

David Hume, Victoria, Retired (ex ACCV Volunteer)
Nigel and I became friends in the early 1950's at Mt.Buller, reinforced a little later when he built a house at Anglesea, where our family also resided. Circa 1976 he asked me to join the Finance Committee of ACCV. John Larritt the chairman died a few weeks later, and I was appointed to take his place. This made me a member of the Executive Committee, and shortly afterwards, I was appointed to the Australian Cancer Society. The late Alan Dick and I used to lunch in Nigel's office every few weeks, where we discussed matters financial, management and administration. Nigel was an excellent listener, with a wonderful memory, and very firm ideas and principles. We retired on the same day. Others have adequately covered his remarkable history at the ACCV, and I can only add that he was an absolute joy to work with, and it turned out that he had much to add on the world scene, which in turn has now been recognised. We Australians are fortunate indeed to have such a man in a leading role, and I am fortunate to have had such a true and trusted friend. David Hume

David Penington AC, University of Melbourne
Nigel Gray has been one of the towering contributors to pubilc health in Australia over the past 50 years. His brilliant campaigning over tobacco was world-leading. The support he engendered for research in treatment and prevention of cancer, paricularly his support to Don Mecalf's program over so many years and work with childhood leukaemia at the RCH, led to major advances. He facilitated and encouraged co-ordination of initiatives as medical oncology evolved. He gave vital support to collaborative trials which played an important role in lifting and securing standards in many fields related to cancer.

Dorothy Reading, Melbourne
Looking back it's hard to believe how lucky I was to get a job at the Cancer Council and work for Nigel. He was a wonderful boss and a good friend. He managed to recruit talented enthusiastic and committed people and his management approach meant that they stayed. He made sure that people were encouraged to think creatively, could get the evidence they needed to proceed with their ideas and had the resources to do so. Cancer Council staff were the envy of the health promotion world. The results of his leadership are evident in the achievements of the Cancer Council team over past decades and today. And he supported the team when they were under attack. His leadership in the face of prolonged punishing legal attacks from the tobacco industry allowed the important work on plain packaging to proceed and be realised.

Sir Gustav Nossal, Parkville, University of Melbourne
Inescapable overseas commitments prevent Lyn and me from being at the Memorial Service. Nigel Gray was a towering figure in cancer prevention. His fight against the tobacco industry was strong, subtle, sustained and uniquely successful. His concept of the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation funded via a hypothecated tax on cigarettes was an inspiration and the decade I spent as its Founding Chairman ranks as one of the best things I have done. His support of Donald Metcalf was a huge boost to Australian cancer research. His international profile surpassed even the great respect he commanded in Victoria. I count it a huge privilege to have been Nigel's colleague and friend. Sir Gustav Nossal.

Paul Davey, Australia
When Nigel Gray arrived at the Anti-Caner Council of Victoria he must have appeared as something of a quixotic figure. The majority of the population smoked and tanning was a favourite Aussie pastime. He not only had to battle the status quo and being labelled a ‘killjoy’, he had to do it while fending off the powerful and ruthless tobacco lobby. Was he driven? Yes, but he struck a marvellous balance with a wonderful family, an active sporting life and a blue Singer he loved to hill-climb. I can see him now, relaxing at the end of a game of golf, enjoying a cold beer and a few pistachios. Killjoy? Hardly. On the day of his retirement, smoking and skin cancer rates had dropped dramatically and there was a new world order. Children on beaches wearing protective suits; the vast majority of adults wearing sunscreen and hats. Smoking is banned in virtually all public venues and the smoker, far from being cool, was rather pitied as is any person addicted. Many associate Nigel only with tobacco control and Slip, Slop, Slap. However, during his time as CEO, great progress was made with the vast majority of cancers. Nigel shone a light into every corner and took action wherever he saw an opportunity. Prevention, early detection and treatment improved outcomes in common cancers such as breast, bowel and cervical. Leukaemia in children went from being untreatable to a cure rate of over 90%. Did he do it all himself? No, he had a fantastic team around him, a team he built and inspired with his talent, charm and charisma. He gave them the best and got the best from them. He made sure that the deserving cancer researchers and the cancer workers outside the ACCV got all the support, encouragement and money he could muster. His career was stellar, but I will always remember his kindness, patience, warmth, humility, humour and overwhelming generosity of spirit. He made me, not just a better worker, but a better person. I have said it many times before and I will say it again here. You meet very few men in your life you would follow into battle, but he was one of them. We erect statues to honour our sporting and war heroes. A statue of Nigel should be erected in Melbourne’s Exhibition Gardens. Nigel’s office overlooked them. He spent countless hours there in a career working on strategies that would ultimately extend the lives of millions upon millions around the world. Being the man he was he would not want the statue, but it’s not for him. It’s for us and the generations to come. It will us there are battles worth fighting and, with great leadership, we all have the ability to ‘hit one out of the park’.

Tahir Turk, Sydney Australia, Communication Partners International
One of the great pioneers of public health in Australia and beyond. He will be missed.

Prakash C. Gupta, Navi Mumbai, India, Healis - Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health
Known Dr. Nigel Gray for over three decades. Interactions with him were always delightful - a fresh view and different way to do things. With his pioneering vision and work, he advanced tobacco control globally. A lot of credit for where we are today, goes to him.

Margaret Winstanley, Perth, WA, public health professional
Nigel Gray was one of the founding fathers of ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) Australia in 1983 and I met him when I began working for ASH soon after. It was a privilege to learn from Australia’s premier tobacco control advocate. He combined intelligence, insight and determination with wit and charisma. Vale Nigel.


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Dr Nigel Gray

Nigel John Gray, AO, is a pioneer of tobacco control both nationally, and internationally. Appointed Director of the then Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria in 1968, Dr Gray recognised tobacco as a key issue and his life's work in pursuing tobacco control has been ground-breaking.

Nigel Gray, AO

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Updated: 16 Mar, 2015