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.
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.
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.
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 Nigelâ€™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.
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.
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 â€œWhatâ€™s the best thing we can do to improve public health?â€. His answer was â€œStop young girls smokingâ€. He was right. He will be missed, but what a towering legacy. Love to all the family. Robert
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 , ComitÃ© National Contre le Tabagisme
J'ai rencontrÃ© Nigel Gray lors d'une confÃ©rence pour activistes organisÃ©e Ã La Haye en 1989 ou 1990. J'y assistais avec Vitold Zatonski, bien avant qu'il organise Ã grande Ã©chelle la lutte en Pologne. J'Ã©tais moi-mÃªme au dÃ©but de mes initiatives en France. Ce qu'il avait accompli dans l'Etat de Victoria et ses explications sur la stratÃ©gie Ã suivre nous ont montrÃ© que c'Ã©tait possible: on pouvait vaincre l'industrie du tabac, on pouvait organiser la prÃ©vention. C'est une leÃ§on qui a nourri nos efforts dans les annÃ©es qui ont suivi. Il avait le souci de la dimension internationale qui est fondamentale dans cette lutte, il avait la gentillesse et l'Ã©lÃ©gance de partager sa grande expÃ©rience avec nous qui Ã©tions dÃ©butants. Toute une gÃ©nÃ©ration d'activistes lui doit d'avoir dÃ©veloppÃ© l'ambition de gagner et d'essayer de mettre en place un systÃ¨me ressemblant Ã ce qui avait Ã©tÃ© crÃ©Ã© 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 1980â€™s and 90â€™s when, under Nigelâ€™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 Metcalfâ€™s discovery of GCSFâ€™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 â€œOddysseysâ€ 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 Kenâ€™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.
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 â€˜killjoyâ€™, 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 Melbourneâ€™s Exhibition Gardens. Nigelâ€™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 itâ€™s not for him. Itâ€™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 â€˜hit one out of the parkâ€™.
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.
Tahir Turk, Sydney Australia, Communication Partners International
One of the great pioneers of public health in Australia and beyond. He will be missed.
Maurice Swanson, Perth, National Heart Foundation of Australia
Dr Nigel Gray was an inspirational leader in public health whose personality, determination and commitment have saved millions of lives world wide.
Andrew Herington, Tobacco Act Task Force/ Vichealth 1987
Nigel was an inspiration to work with. His technical knowledge was immense but his unique skills were his cunning and persistent approach to politics and a flair for compelling communication. He had a persuasive style and an ability to engage people from every viewpoint to work on his issues. There was so much to learn from him and so many working today who were motivated by his example.
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 Australiaâ€™s premier tobacco control advocate. He combined intelligence, insight and determination with wit and charisma. Vale Nigel.
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.
Cecilia Farren, Bristol UK, GASP Consultancy
Dr Nigel Gray was an inspiration to all tobacco control advocates. He had the skill of appearing as an upright member of society while at the same time inspiring and encouraging some of the most radical, innovative and successful tobacco control campaigns in the world. I did not know him personally but my visits to family in Melbourne from the UK over many years always included a visit to the Anti-Cancer Council then Quit Victoria to be inspired by the work of Nigel Gray's team. It was like recharging the batteries to take the fight back to the UK. At World Conferences, Dr Gray's presentations were always a highlight as he spoke gently but authoritively. I would like to thank this wonderful man for leading the way in the world of tackling tobacco. Thank you Dr Gray.
Dr Tauheed Ahmaad, New Delhi, Doctor's Network for the Eradication of Tobacco (DOCNET)
Dr. Gray will be remembered as a pioneer in tobacco-control, the greatest public health movement. I had a chance to meet him asking for his opinion regarding my work on use of poetry to counter tobacco influences. He gave me insights regarding the importance of research and evidence generation for any intervention. I set on to research the impact and presented my work at World Conferences on Tobacco or Health in Mumbai as well as Singapore. Dr. Nigel Gray's insight, courage and vision shall continue to guide us all. My condolences to the family members of this illustrious personality. RIP
Kathryn Barnsley, Hobart, SmokeFree Tasmania
Nigel Gray was a giant in International a Tobacco Control, and the most brilliant policy entrepreneur I have ever met. His ability to work with politicians was quite remarkable. To be able to persuade them of the importance of tobacco control, and the genius of hypothecation. The allocation of funds from tobacco taxes to tobacco control is the reason Victoria is a world leader in tobacco control behavioural research. Research needs independent funding, and Nigel ensured this. He was always ready with a quick piece of advice to me, an isolated public servant in far away Tasmania. Nigel was also ready to admit our mistakes, a rare quality in such an eminent person with a brain the size of a planet. He made sure that we all knew that labelling of tar on cigarette packets was an error. If we don't acknowledge and admit mistakes then we cannot move on, or understand what diabolical horror the tobacco industry may dream up next. His work in tobacco product regulation will stand for many years, and enable us to build on that legacy. He was a true leader, a kind and patient man, a gentleman of science. Ann was always at his side at the conferences I remember, and I am thinking of her gentle charm and lively smile, and hope that she can come through this sad time with her love and memories intact. Thank you both.
I have known Nigel as a personal friend, rather than in his professional field. My times with Nigel showed me a man with a ready smile and a passion for life in general. Nigel exemplified someone who appreciated so many of the joys life has to offer: the love of his wife, his children and grandchildren, his music, the thrill of driving at speed in his beloved sports cars, the beauty of Australia but also that of cultures and nature wherever he happened to be.He was a positive man. Then just yesterday, we received Nigel's compilation of music he'd clearly put together as a gift for friends and loved ones. It spoke to me of a man who was expressing himself through the choice of music he'd made. How well he did this. The music reminded me of the man I'd known. He was a lover, a giver and a fighter. He had the strength to fight for what he believed in and the confidence of someone well loved. His life has made a difference. I am very happy to have known Nigel.
John Candido, Ivanhoe Melbourne
As a member of the public, I really enjoyed watching Dr. Nigel Gray debate opponents from the tobacco industry, on the 7.30 Report or A Current Affair around the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. The debates on television between Dr. Nigel Gray and whoever was selected to go against him as the spokesperson from the tobacco industry, were comparable to those between a knowledgeable doctor and a snake-oil salesman, whose integrity and veracity were completely compromised. It didn't matter who was selected to match his considerable intellect and force of personality, how well prepared they were to debate him on the danger to public health that is tobacco, or how resourceful and intelligent they were. All of his debates with any person from the tobacco lobby, invariably caused his opponents to came off second-best. It was an absolute hoot to watch him demolish their arguments with aplomb. It was an occasion of great laughter to see him dispatch his interlocutors with authority and efficiency. I spoke with him on a couple of occasions on the telephone. It is a tribute to his sense of public service that he found the time to speak with members of the public, on top of his considerable work load. I once told him that he was a fantastic debater on television and I greatly admired his ability to dispatch his opponents. He quickly caught wind of my string of superlatives, said thank you very much and ended the phone call. I am certain that he did not like too much praise heaped on him. He was a person with whom I had the highest and most unqualified regard. I learnt of his passing in an article in The Age about a week or two ago. I am very saddened by his passing and I want to pass my deep respect and condolences to his wife and children.
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Melbourne, Young and Well CRC
i only met Nigel a few times - but he put fire in my belly and ignited the anti-tobacco movement in New Zealand. A truly inspirational man who's courage, intellect and leadership will live in the memory of all who worked with him.
Dr Stephen Parnis, Melbourne , Vice President, Australian Medical Association
My first encounter with Dr Gray was in December 1992, when he was the Keynote Speaker at my graduation ceremony at the University of Melbourne. I remember that speech well. He spoke of the privileges afforded by a university education, but much more importantly, of the obligation to give back to the community. His passion for public health was palpable, & I think some of it rubbed off onto me that day. Rest in Peace, Nigel.
Professor David Hill, AO, Former CEO of the Cancer Council Victoria, and past President of the Union for International Cancer Control
His commitment to research and action, his extraordinary mix of establishment persona and radical thinker and his ability to bring out the best in those working with him has created a blueprint for creating change that will be used for many decades to come.
Ron Borland, Australia, Nigel Gray Distinguished Fellow in Cancer Prevention, Cancer Council Victoria
Nigel has been a great inspiration in my professional life, I have the great honour of holding a position named after him. Nigel always fought for what he believed was right and continued to fight for better tobacco control efforts until the very end. His leadership and wisdom will be sorely missed, but his inspiration lives on.
World Health Organization (WHO)
Combining rigorous science, visionary thinking, profound integrity, and warm personality, Dr Grayâ€™s influential legacy in WHOâ€™s tobacco product regulation is indelibly etched in the various written work products of WHO Scientific Advisory Committee on Tobacco Product Regulation and WHO Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation. To those of us who worked closely with him, we saw a role-model and mentor who was always humble, approachable, and never acted as if he was above anybody else even though he was light years ahead of us in his global vision. And he was consistently a fearless opponent of the tobacco industry.
Read the full WHO tribute.
CEO Jerril Rechter , VicHealth
Dr Grayâ€™s persistence and dedication to reducing smoking in Victoria had helped save thousands of lives over the last 50 years. He worked relentlessly, quickly and with all sides of politics to achieve his goal.
His determination led to the creation of VicHealth in 1987. This was no mean feat; it was a major battle in the face of adversity and the opposition from tobacco companies was fierce. However, Dr Gray persevered and today, nearly 30 years later, preventing tobacco use remains a key focus of VicHealth.
Simon Chapman AO, Australia, University of Sydney
In life, you recognise people who have had enormous influence on you, personally and professionally. When someone has been both of these things to you the gratitude is boundless and the loss very acute. Nigel took me to Papua New Guinea with him in 1982 to work with local officials and public health people to get tobacco advertising banned. We got on like a house on fire from that day onward. He was exactly the right combination of a knowing woods from the trees population-focussed mind, and someone at great ease in his own skin, almost regardless of the company. Doll, Wynder, Peto, Thun et al set the epidemiological record, but Nigel pioneered the tobacco control template for generations to come. His impact was unparalleled with many people. Bless him. And my love to Ann.
Todd Harper, CEO, Cancer Council Victoria
Nigel Gray combined a compelling vision for cancer prevention together with an artful approach to advocacy. The resulting reforms in tobacco control, cancer screening and SunSmart have left a legacy for generations. A generous leader and a dedicated mentor, Nigel was one of a kind.
Monica Castelli, Italy, as private person
Dear Nigel I got this new last week and I am really but really upset about your departure, I remember the years we workedtogether in Italy, I learn many many important things about dangerous smoking effects ....... I learned for my life and for one of my friends.
I hope Ann will survive to this event......
Remembering you, I will pry for you.
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.