Northern NSW volunteer news

Armidale Cancer Council Information Service Team – 2017 New England Volunteer Team of the Year

armidale referral service

The Armidale Cancer Council Information Service (CCIS) Volunteers have been operating since November 2013 and work in the Armidale Rural Referral Hospital Oncology Department. The service currently has 10 committed volunteers working within this operation and these highly motivated volunteers assist cancer patients, carers and families while visiting their oncology specialists at Armidale Hospital.

The specially trained Cancer Council volunteers have been providing support and cups of coffee to those visiting the oncology department over the past three and a half years under difficult circumstances due to operational constraints within the oncology department and clinic protocols.

The operational issues saw the resignations of 80-90% of existing volunteers over this period through lack of engagement and inability to provide the service we know we could.

Thanks to the commitment of the volunteers within this service, and with the assistance of Armidale Hospital Oncology staff who recognised the threat of losing a valuable service to their patients and the Armidale and New England community, we were able to make some key operational changes and the service has subsequently gone from strength to strength.

There needs to be a special mention made to one of Armidale and Cancer Council NSW’s most valuable volunteers, Jo Dolan, for her enormous commitment to the cause in “hanging in there” over the entire life of the CCIS, and the only volunteer to do so. Jo is not only the longest serving CCIS volunteer but also a trained Advocate, Community Speaker, Support Group Leader and Relay For Life Committee member for Armidale.

The Armidale CCIS program has not only taught me the lessons of never giving up and working closely with those stakeholders in your community, but more importantly the value of our amazing and dedicated volunteers who join us every day in our fight to beat cancer and without their assistance we would not be able to achieve what we do in our communities.

Paul Hobson Community Engagement Coordinator, Northern Region – Tamworth Office


Celebrating our volunteers

This month we celebrated National Volunteer Week with a little homemade video for our volunteers across Northern NSW. Click here to watch our video

Meet Fae Sproule, one of Northern NSW’s most loved and long-standing volunteers


In 1995, Fae Sproule, the warm, widely-loved grandmother from Mullumbimby on the NSW north coast, realised that the community was crying out for a cancer support and fundraising group, and she got together with like-minded locals to form the Brunswick Valley Cancer Action Group.

With Fae as its president, the group went on to raise more than $200,000 for cancer research.

To read more of Fae’s story, visit Fae’s story


Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea set to be huge across Northern NSW throughout May and June


The gorgeous girls from Cherry Street Bowling Club in Ballina are a fantastic example of what Australia’s Biggest Morning tea means to our community – an opportunity to get together, celebrate life, friendship and remember those we have lost to cancer.

Host Evelyn says, “Many of our ladies are a classic example of living with or fighting this disease. We have many who have returned to bowls after extensive treatment, and many who enjoyed extra time with families due to new treatment and services.

“We host the morning tea on behalf of everyone in our community who has been affected by cancer, as we all know this hideous disease has touched nearly all families in our community.

“My own mother succumbed to cancer at the age of fifty-seven, too young, too many years lost of being a mother and grandmother.”

Evelyn shares her secret to her Biggest Morning Tea:

My favourite recipe would have to be a boiled fruitcake

  • 1kg mixed fruit
  • 250g butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 cup dry ginger ale
  • 1 tsp bicarb soda
  • Boil gently for 10 minutes
  • Add 3 well-beaten eggs
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup self raising flour
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • Nuts (to please)
  • Vanilla essence
  • Almond essence
  • Rum essence
  • Cook approximately 2.5 hours at 150 degrees 

Suggestion – try substituting some of the mixed fruit (e.g. 200-300g) with chopped dates, ginger, extra cherries if desired.


Previous regional news from 2017

Northern NSW – Relay Wrap Up


“We have been involved with Relay for Life for the last 10 years as cancer has affected many members of our family. My niece, uncles, sister in law and our precious beautiful daughter, Elle, who was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer”.

Elle has recently been involved in cancer treatment trials, and her mum Maureen knows just how important funds raised at Relay for Life are to support those affected by cancer.

Thanks to our communities, Relay events across Northern NSW like Liverpool Plains and Namoi Valley are celebrating 10 years of funding vital research grants, prevention campaigns, support services & advocacy.

Thank you to the Liverpool Plains, Tamworth, Namoi Valley, Tweed Valley, Ballina, Casino, Lower Clarence, Coffs Harbour and Manning Valley communities who were involved in our recent Local Hero Project.

Cancer Council NSW worked hard with each community to highlight a very special story and put a face to each event. The project was hugely successful, growing our already strong connection with community and reiterating the impact of Relay for Life.


Local Councils clear the air with smoke free zones


On 19 April, Gunnedah Shire Council adopted a smoke free policy, including a smoke free zone in their CBD, after councillors unanimously passed a draft submission to introduce it about a year earlier.

Smoke free zones not only protect non-smokers from the dangers of second-hand smoke, they also help to de-normalise smoking to children and young people, support people who are trying to quit, and encourage smokers to cut down or quit.

Tamworth Regional Council also has a smoke free CBD and recently celebrated 1 year of their smoke free policy.

As World No Tobacco Day approaches on 31 May, we would like to congratulate all the local councils introducing a smoke free zone, helping to protect their community from the dangers of cigarette smoke.


Community support in the Northern Region

cancer council 13 11 20On Thursday 30 March, the Lismore, Murwillumbah and the Tweed regions experienced record flood levels in the wake of ex-cyclone Debbie.

Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from their homes.  Many Cancer Council NSW volunteers and their families and friends were impacted by this devastating weather event.    

In response, the Cancer Council NSW Byron Bay Office collected donations (including clothing, groceries and homewares), and made deliveries out to Lismore.  The camaraderie in this community has been inspirational, and we were happy to get involved to provide a little help to the people that have given us so much support in the past.

The team at Cancer Council NSW knows that some volunteers are still facing hardship due to the flooding and there is a long road ahead with the clean-up and in some cases rebuilding.

We want to let you know that we continue to think of you and hope that you are well on the road to recovery.

Our 13 11 20 Information & Support line is available if you need to speak with a specialist cancer professional about anything cancer related or support.

Home away from home – Inala House, Tamworth

Many of our volunteers are cancer survivors themselves, or have had a family member touched by cancer.

cheryl soper

Cheryl Soper, hospital, administration and accommodation volunteer, Northern Region.

Cheryl Soper in our North West region had had very little contact with cancer before she began volunteering with us.  Cheryl ’s motivation for volunteering with Cancer Council NSW was due to our reputation of being such a worthy cause. Cheryl was worried about her lack of knowledge, and admits that she has learnt a lot, but has enjoyed seeing things from a different perspective and developing an understanding of the disease and the support frameworks that Cancer Council NSW provides.

Cheryl now volunteers two afternoons a week and her main task is developing the Transport to Treatment roster. This involves coordinating eight drivers and compiling the daily timetable of transports -logistically this can mean organising up to ten trips a day.

Cheryl also volunteers at the hospital concierge desk, and is the full time carer for her father who has dementia and still lives at home. She is always willing to cover extra admin shifts if required at Inala House and meets guests on the weekend for check ins.

Cheryl describes Inala House as a “home away from home that offers a warm welcome to all. You can see the shift in people after they’ve settled in and realise that it is a supportive, caring environment. They go from being unaware and worried to settled and familiar. ”

Biggest highlight for Cheryl?  Interacting with people!  Cheryl finds the day to day interaction uplifting and rewarding.  Inala House is a positive environment and the patients teach us a “thing or two”.

Thank you to Cheryl and all of our volunteer force in the North West.  Where would we be without you?


The driving force behind the Lower Mid North Coast

2012-10-24_12-35-33_691 Reon and Charlie 3

Reon, Community Engagement Manager Brenna Smith, and Charlie (L to R)

There’s a group of volunteer drivers who in 2015-2016 collectively drove over 44,000km, transporting cancer patients to much needed treatment. That’s equivalent to driving from Taree to Perth 11 times! 

Cancer Council’s valuable Transport to Treatment program is an essential program delivered to cancer patients by valued volunteers.  2017 marks the eleventh year this particular group of volunteers have been helping the community, through driving patients in this region.  But it’s not only transporting from A to B that is so important to these patients.  It’s the conversations, support and reliability of our Cancer Council drivers which helps provide an invaluable service to the community.

To Reon, Charlie, Ray, Tony, Harry and Eric, thank you. The distances you travel, the conversations you have and the hours you volunteer are worth a lot to the Manning Valley and Taree communities, and to Cancer Council NSW, it’s priceless.


Southern Cross University Star Student Hard At Work In The Byron Bay Office

naomi carter

Name: Naomi Carter

Volunteer Position: Communications and Events Intern, Far North Coast

University: Southern Cross University, Gold Coast Campus

Degree: Bachelor of Business, in Convention and Event Management

Why did you choose Cancer Council NSW for your internship placement? I wanted to do my placement with an organisation that is passionate about what they do and cares for people.  I was interested in working in the non-profit sector.

What does a “Day in the Life” of an intern look like? Diverse! My days are full and I work on:-

  • Media releases
  • Sponsorship enquiries
  • Administration
  • VIP invitations
  • Promotion and marketing materials
  • Developing event programs
  • Collating team handouts

All in a friendly, busy atmosphere.

What’s been the biggest challenge? Understanding all aspects of the organisation to be able to talk to people on the phone with confidence and knowledge.  Once I grasped all the information about events and the relevant volunteer managers, I became more comfortable and enjoy the communications part of the role.

What’s been your biggest highlight?  All of it, I love it!  I’ve secured some valuable sponsorships with large partners, which has been really rewarding.

How has your placement impacted on your university studies? Positively.  My marks in all subject areas have improved as I now have a very solid understanding of the industry.  My volunteer managers have also been very supportive and flexible, for example, if I have a large assessment due, they understand and allow me to work on it in the office, or take time off to study.

What are you hoping to do after graduating? Stay on with the Cancer Council until all my events are complete – I’d like to see them through from start to finish.  Then seek out work in the events industry.

Outside of work, what are your three favourite things in life? The beach, girlfriends and my family.


Do it for Cancer Head Shave


“My mum was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma on 29th November 2011, the same day my grandfather died of cancer.

“I’ve watched Mum’s cancer journey, she even talked me into shaving her hair when the chemo caused it to start falling out. She had her last chemo and was told she was in remission in August 2012 and around a week later she fell and broke her back.

“Mum was in the Gold Coast Hospital for a bit over three weeks and in pain but still kept smiling because she was in remission.

“Unfortunately in August 2013 her blood tests revealed the cancer was back with a vengeance, it had spread through her bones. So back into chemo she went, fairly severe dosages at that. Still, she smiles and she is an inspiration.

“As most onlookers of those diagnosed with cancer do, I felt useless. I thought a lot about what I could do to help.

“Then it hit me. Shaving my head to raise money in the hope there is a cure one day would be a bold and proud statement. I asked my hairdresser if she could donate her time, I got the local paper involved, and then I asked Mum to do the first shave. I decided to do it on her birthday so that it was a memorable birthday for her.

“We had more than 50 people turn up to watch the shave, it was amazing. As my own memory, I had the purple cancer ribbon tattooed on my neck near my hair line.

“My children’s bus driver paid for the tattoo and the tattooist handed me the $100 back to me saying, ‘For your cause -I had leukaemia when I was a kid.’

“I will never forget the generosity of my family, friends and people in my town and no words will ever be thank you enough for the support they have all given.”

Join with people like Kelly and shave or colour your hair this year to help beat cancer! Register now for your free host kit at


Eat It To Beat It: Back to School with Fruit and Veg Sense


Over 70 parents and carers across Northern NSW have already received Eat It To Beat It’s Fruit and Veg Sense workshop this year. Sessions have been held across Moree Plains, Carroll, Armidale, Taree, Nabiac, Willawarrin, Bellingen, Urunga, Lismore and Ulmarra, delivered by Eat It To Beat It volunteers. Parents and carers have been given tips to increase their fruit and veg consumption as well as overcome fussy eating challenges that are common amongst so many families.

A Beechwood mother of 1 says she “Loves the handouts and think they are a great idea across the board and a great incentive to have a look at what their children want to eat for lunch”. She says its “handy for busy mums”.

This program is in the middle of it’s season. Parents and teachers are encouraged to book in a session at their local school by visiting the website


Northern NSW Shows Support for Palliative Care


The ‘I Care For Palliative Care’ campaign continued to gain traction in Northern NSW this month, with another four campaign launches held across the region. Ballina, Grafton, Port Macquarie and Taree communities added their pledges to the tally, showing strong community support for increased palliative care funding across the state.

The events were well attended by local MP’s, stakeholders and residents, generating extensive media across 10 print, television and radio media outlets across the region!



Catch up with previous months’ news by going here and then clicking on your blue ‘region’ link.