Mrs BARBARA PERRY (Auburn) [5.33 p.m.]: In the wake of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Week, held from 20 to 25 February, I would like to share with the House my involvement in local activities and to appeal to honourable members to increase their support for this crucial health campaign. My first real contact with ovarian cancer came in the form of an immensely compassionate and active local constituent by the name of Mary Dias, who had witnessed the horror of her mother losing the battle with ovarian cancer some nine months prior.
It was evident to me that Mary was still suffering the effects of the trauma, as her mother was a gracious and deeply loving woman with whom she was deeply bonded as daughter and best friend. I am to this day in admiration of Mary for the courage and strength she was able to muster in stepping outside the emotional devastation she was experiencing to launch an all-out single-handed effort to begin a local crusade to raise awareness.
To begin with, the Auburn Review proved interested, and soon ran the issue complete with photos, facts, and her story to help drive the message home. I soon became involved, but first I decided to do some research, and some disturbing facts came into view. I discovered that ovarian cancer—otherwise known as the silent killer—takes the life of one Australian woman every 10 hours. Day and night, year round, and without discrimination, it goes about its deadly business.
In the case of Mary's mother the cancer proved to be tragically but, characteristically, violent and destructive. It literally ate her alive, organ by organ, as she suffered in unspeakable agony. For members who may not be aware, ovarian cancer has overtaken cervical cancer for the grim prize of being the sixth most common cause of cancer deaths in women. Ongoing research and development will in time develop more reliable early detection tests, but nothing can diminish the importance of simple education and awareness.
For this reason a big part of my effort has gone towards encouraging as many media outlets as possible to join Mary, me and others in embarking on the campaign. I am pleased to inform the House that I received a most positive response from local and metropolitan newspapers. In particular, I was heartened to see the ethnic media respond without hesitation. I included my office contact details in the feature article for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Week and the offer to send out information packs, and I soon received calls from readers across the western Sydney region and beyond. One lady, a reader of the Chinese paper Sing Tao, called from Baulkham Hills. My office is working with Mary and Deb Stevens, the Awareness Co-ordinator for the Western Sydney Region of the National Ovarian Cancer Network, who is also a remarkably devoted woman, and to date we have been able to achieve a lot. Yet the job has just begun.
Next year I intend to spread the message still further and heighten media involvement for the duration of awareness week. I encourage honourable members to put their good names behind this important women's health concern and hope that the positive responses l have received thus far will serve to spur us all on to greater efforts. A further piece of encouragement has come in the form of the latest announcement indicating that the National Ovarian Cancer Network and the National Breast Cancer Centre's Ovarian Cancer Program have begun joint efforts with the launch of a new awareness campaign and national guideline.
As important as these initiatives are, it must be remembered that there remain countless women who may still be beyond their reach. So it is imperative that we also wade in and do our part in getting all media, particularly ethnic media and other valuable sources of communication with our constituencies, interested and on side in campaigning along with us. I use this opportunity to honour all those who have been involved thus far, and to extend my deepest condolences to Mary and all others who have lost their loved ones to this most silent and deadly of killers. I close by reading a portion of the poem written by Deb Stevens in memory of Mary's mother:
what was this illness which had such control, such force
"paining daughter"; "paining" said with a smile
this test from God was surely too much
yet her faith graciously accepted it
it was then the monster revealed itself
it had been there in the shadows, waiting
its name, Ovarian Cancer
not like any other women's cancers
all the symptoms, all the signs
but like all the other poor victims
the signs came too late
it wears a mask an evil disguise
A time when most of us are preparing for Christmas
Family gatherings, singing, rejoicing
For Hilda's family, there was no preparing for what was to come.
Ms ALISON MEGARRITY (Menai—Parliamentary Secretary) [5.38 p.m.]: I thank the honourable member for Auburn for raising this very important issue. It is a sobering and frightening statistic that the disease claims one woman every 10 hours. As the honourable member said, awareness is the key to the early detection of this deadly disease and therefore the greater survival of its victims. I join the honourable member for Auburn in paying tribute to her constituent Mary Dias. She is to be commended for her courage and determination, which obviously allowed her to constructively deal with her grief on the loss of her mother. I cannot speak for her, but I suggest that she felt as much grief for her mother while she was suffering on this earth as she did after her mother left it. I hope other honourable members will take the opportunity to promote in their local newspapers and among community groups, greater awareness of what is known as the silent killer but is in fact a disease we must talk about so that other women will be aware and their families will not suffer the tragic loss that Mary and her family have suffered.