Speech by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Launch of the Breast Cancer Awareness Exhibition, Warrior Women


Let me start by first extending thanks to Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA), and Dragons Abreast, for their valuable contributions to the health and wellbeing of women in Australia and also for inviting me to speak at this exciting launch here this morning.

It gives me great pleasure to support the mounting of this exhibition through the Women’s Development Programme of the Office of the Status of Women.

Warrior Women explores the impact of breast cancer on the lives of women. It reminds us that this disease is not constrained by any cultural or social barriers, and in some ways it can bring women together, enabling them to express their profound shared experience.

These artists are inspirational – both through their art, and in their courage to revisit their often-painful journey, communicating their experience to other women, friends, family and the community.

Breast cancer remains a problem. One in 11 of us will develop the disease before we reach the age of 75 years, and the latest cancer mortality figures show that in 2000, there were approximately 2,500 deaths in women from breast cancer.
The Howard Government is strongly committed to the fight against breast cancer.

Funding is provided to States and Territories under Public Health Outcomes Funding Agreements. A number of these Agreements benefit women by providing health education, disease prevention, screening and early intervention. Programmes funded through these Agreements include the National Women’s Health Strategy and BreastScreen Australia.

BreastScreen Australia aims to continue to achieve significant reductions in mortality and morbidity from breast cancer through early detection. Women over 50 who undergo screening every two years have a 50 per cent reduction in the risk of dying from breast cancer.
Breastscreen now operates in over 500 locations across the country, including many mobile services reaching rural and remote communities.

Screening has increased significantly since commencement of this initiative in 1991, with over 56,000 women now being screened across Australia each month.

Over 1.4 million women attended screening over the two years 1998 and 1999. In 1998, over 1,095 small invasive cancers were detected through the Programme.

In recognition of the impact of breast cancer on Australian women and their families, the Howard Government provides $2 million per annum to the National Breast Cancer Centre, which fosters an evidence-based approach to the diagnosis, treatment and, support of women with breast cancer.

The Centre works in partnership with women, health professionals, cancer organisations, researchers and governments to improve outcomes for women with breast cancer.

The Centre has earned international recognition as a leader in its field. In August this year, the NBCC in association with the National Cancer Control Initiative (NCCI) launched the worlds first Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Psychosocial Care of Adults with Cancer.

The Strengthening Support for Women with Breast Cancer measure was announced as an election commitment in the 1999-2000 Budget. A further $4 million over four years was announced in the 2003-04 Budget.

This measure provides support services for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, particularly those in regional and rural areas where they face special barriers to accessing treatment options and support services, a result of their geographic isolation and limited contact with specialist health care workers.

This measure aims to improve health outcomes for women with breast cancer through access to specialised care and improved dissemination of information regarding support services.

In 2003, National Health and Medical Research Council has also invested nearly $36 million into health and medical research specifically on women’s health, with a large investment into cancer, cancer prevention and reproductive health.

Thanks again for allowing me to participate in this launch this morning – an opportunity I eagerly embraced given the large number of women whose lives are impacted on by this disease.

I especially welcome all women competitors of the 9th Australian Masters Games here in Canberra, but most particularly -given the significance of this week – to the survivors of breast cancer.