Fighting the big C

Written on the 16 October 2009

Fighting the big C

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Jeff Dunn has been campaigning for community awareness, research and support for seven years in his role with the non-profit organisation. In that time the organisation has grown from 88 to 235 employees in addition to 2400 registered volunteers. He tells Brisbane Business News about the collective effort to tackle the disease and support its victims.

MOST people in Brisbane have some experience with cancer, whether they’ve experienced it themselves or know a family or friend that has suffered from the disease.

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Jeff Dunn wants to get rid of it.
“Everyone else agrees that they want to see the end of this thing, so if we combine our resources we can collectively get there.Cancer is a community problem, not just for doctors, nurses and researchers but for each and every one of us,” says Dunn.

“The Queensland community has always been very supportive and one of our great strengths is recognising we are a community-based organisation and we exist for that reason.”

Thanks to generous donations which have more than doubled since 2002, the organisation will be able to provide $12 million in cancer research funding this year,
“Our endeavours have contributed to the establishment of an internationally accredited research community in Queensland, dedicated to pursuing worldwide cancer prevention strategies,” he says.

“There’s a high level of awareness and people give money in a number of ways — for research such as the vaccine for cervical cancer, as well as finding ways to support victims’ quality of life and to educate the community.

“Certainly in the last six years we’ve experienced significant growth with staff numbers and our service profile, but unfortunately the incident rate of cancer is continually increasing so the demand for services is increasing.”

He points out that the main objective is to control cancer and to do that takes a significant development in staff in terms of expertise, service, operational and delivery aspects. But members of the community also need to take caution to prevent disease.

“The sad thing is that 19 per cent of Queenslanders still smoke, a lot get sunburnt and not all women show up for their pap smear,” says Dunn.

“We fought a campaign for several years to get government legislation to ban smoking in restaurants and bars. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable illness — 3000 people die from it each year in Queensland. That’s 10 times the road toll.

“What we want to do is ensure that legislation remains current and that we remove all displays of tobacco in retail outlets.”

He also discusses how Queensland is the ‘melanoma capital of the world’ and how people need to wear more sunscreen and avoid too much exposure to ultraviolet rays.

One example of research the Cancer Council is supporting at the moment is $1.24 million in funding for Professor Frank Gardner into prostate cancer treatment methods.

Dunn says he likes his job because he has a talented team of staff and dedicated volunteers in addressing this health problem, with a dedication to do whatever they can to control cancer.

“With over 20,000 Queenslanders diagnosed with cancer every year, our work has never been more important,” he says.

“Our work in prevention and early detection, and our support services, has played a pivotal role in influencing community awareness and policy creation on issues such as sun protection and tobacco control.”

In addition to the $12 million for research this year, the organisation will provide around $10 million in support services for Queenslanders affected by cancer.

“We are fortunate to be in a sound financial position, where we are able to continue providing and improving cancer-related services for the community,” he says.

Investment has also gone into two major capital works projects – an $8 million palliative care centre in Townsville and a $2.2 million support centre in Rockhampton, which will both be launched in late 2009.


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