Northern NSW volunteer news

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.


Previous months’ news:

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!


Dougal Bear Volunteer

dougal bear

In the Byron Bay office a few weeks ago, we had an enquiry from a potential volunteer who wanted to give back and work with us.  Her name is Melina, and she is a Brazilian lady visiting Byron Bay to learn English.

When we interviewed her, it became apparent that her spoken English level would make it very difficult for her to work with us on Media and Communications projects (Melina is a journalist back home).

However, her spark and enthusiasm triggered an idea- could she help out at Relay for Life?  She explained that she loved to give hugs, dance and make people happy- the perfect skill set to be Dougal Bear!

Melina was our Dougal Bear at Relay for Life, Ballina at the weekend.  She did an amazing job and did all the things she said she was good at!  She actually made no less than five appearances and we all know how hard that is in the heat!

Melina has written a little piece about her perspective of Relay For Life- get ready- it’s pretty touching and all this from a visitor to our country who is prepared to give back.

Melina’s Story

“I was a 27-year-old girl who worked, dated and lived with my family.

“On 12/11/2010 I received the diagnosis that would change this whole scenario and my life forever. Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“From that moment I stopped life to take care of my health. I only lived the disease. I reclaimed myself. Those were hard days! I suffered a lot because I lost my hair, it was very difficult to lose.

“Because I was misdiagnosed, my cancer was already in grade II being treated with 12 sessions of chemotherapy. Duration of treatment: six months.

“At the end of this process the next step was rebirth.

“I have gained kilos, stains, scars and strength to overcome all this. Hair has grown, I have lost all the Kilos gained from a super healthy diet, and I believe that healthy cooking is the cure of any disease.

“Years and years living by myself, I decided it was time to live the collective, share and exchange experiences with people unknown.

“It was then that I arrived in Australia in search of a dream, to master the English language.

“My life now is living the collective, making a difference in someone’s life, whether it’s with an encouragement, with a helping hand, with a costume dance dressed as a bear, with a hug, with a cleaning, with a meal, anyway. …. I have many things to offer.

“The desire to be a volunteer was precisely because of this, to live the collective, to exchange stories, to help, to learn and to grow … to become a better person.

“On the day of the event, I felt a great joy at drawing smiles from children and adults, I was very moved at the end, I found the envelopes with light beautiful. I felt the faith of desires. Your work is fantastic.

“I am so proud and grateful that you have helped me become a little better.”

The Ballina Relay for Life was a beautiful event.  The RFL Committee and all volunteers put in a mammoth effort to execute a well organised, fun and welcoming event which was beautiful, emotional and welcoming for all.  Congratulations to the Ballina community, on behalf of all of us at the Cancer Council NSW, thank you for all your hard work.


Liverpool Plains Relay For Life Committee Volunteers

liverpool relay arch

The 2017 Liverpool Relay has been a celebration in more ways than one, with the Liverpool Plains community celebrating 10 years of relay at the Quirindi Rugby Ground.

Nothing was going to dampen the spirits of the Liverpool Plains relayers, including the amazing Relay committee volunteers, as inclement weather threatened to spoil the party.  The rain fell all throughout the region leading into the event, but the Quirindi Rugby Ground was in amazing condition, and the only drops of water that fell during the event was a light 3am shower which didn’t spoil anyone’s fun and celebrations.

The Liverpool Plains relay committee volunteers were a big highlight of the event this year and among the committee were a number of dedicated volunteers involved that have served Cancer Council NSW and Relay for Life over the last 10 years.

The current committee chair and Quirindi resident Ann Stent has been involved with the Liverpool Plains Relay for Life since it started in 2007, attending the first ever Relay for Life Summit prior to the record breaking 2007 Quirindi Relay for Life.

Barbara and Barry McNamara are long standing committee members who have held various positions over the past 10 years taking on multiple roles and always being around to lend a hand in any way they are needed.

Julia Cameron has also been involved with the event since its conception being on the committee for the last 5 bi-annual events.  Julie, a Pre-school director, coordinates the children’s games and activities which are always a huge hit at every Relay.  This year was not only the 10 year anniversary of the Liverpool Plains Relay for Life, but the 10 year anniversary of the passing of Julia’s beloved Dad, who is the reason Relay for Life is close to her heart.

The mother and daughter team of Pam Tanner and Jodie Sevil attended the 2016 Relay for Life Summit after coordinating the ceremonies for the 2015 event, and this experience had an amazing impact on their commitment and enthusiasm in organising this year’s ceremonies, including the 10 year anniversary celebrations

Angus Fraser has been involved in the Liverpool Relay committee for the last two relays with purple running through his veins, being the son of Shaen Fraser the inaugural chair of the Liverpool Plains Relay for life (and staff member).  This year Angus, or “Gus” as he is known to many, chose to not cut his hair for over 12 months and then lost his locks at the 2017 Relay, raising $2,000 for his troubles.

liverpool relay

These are just a few of the amazing volunteers and committee members who have helped mould the success of Relay for Life in the Liverpool Plains community and for that Cancer Council NSW and cancer patients across NSW owe a great deal of thanks.


Palliative Care, The Issue is on Everyone’s Agenda


Palliative Care is talked about in the hospitals, within accommodation providers; doctor surgery’s and homes across NSW. Our NSW Parliament Members are aware of the issue and through the resources developed by Cancer Council the gaps are identified and the solution resolved.

Local offices across Northern NSW are working diligently to build networks and engage stake holders and in Northern NSW pledges are rolling in.

In the Lower Mid North Coast Local MP Steve Bromhead (Taree) has happily signed the pledge while Leslie Williams is encouraged and understands the issue but yet to sign.

The issue of Palliative Care is on everyone’s agenda and with our launch in mid-March it will continue to be talked about.


National Close the Gap Day


16 March marked National Close the Gap Day, when Cancer Council NSW called for more culturally appropriate palliative care services for Aboriginal people. The call comes as part of Cancer Council NSW’s ‘I Care for Palliative Care’ campaign, which is highlighting a state-wide shortage of palliative care staff across NSW.

When an Aboriginal person has a terminal illness, they deserve the best possible and most appropriate palliative care. Palliative care services are more likely to be effective when Aboriginal people are integrally involved in their development and implementation.

Across Northern NSW, we are working with local Aboriginal Medical Services to raise cancer awareness through prevention programs such as Tackling Tobacco, as well as provide assistance through our Pro Bono Legal Service, Financial Assistance, and Transport to Treatment programs.

To help Close the Gap support the ‘I Care for Palliative Care’ campaign by signing the pledge for Minister Hazzard to end the palliative care shortage:


28 clubs and counting across Northern NSW – Improve Your Long Game


Did you know that NSW men over the age of 40 are twice as likely as women of a similar age to die of melanoma?

That’s why we joined forces with 28 golf clubs across Northern NSW this summer to help our players reduce their risk of skin cancer and improve their long game. The program, aimed at men aged 40 years and over, encourages sun protective behaviours by offering free sunscreen pump dispensers at designated points along the course, as well as information resources on how to reduce skin cancer risk.

 “This prevention campaign is definitely improving the message and people started relating it back to their own personal experience and they go ‘okay that makes sense’.  The sunscreen is getting used, and I take that as proof the prevention message is getting across to people. I monitor the campaign pretty closely. I’m sort of like… if this spot isn’t working, where can I move it, I’ll put it somewhere else. I’ve done a bit of moving sunscreen around and I’ve found my peak zones. I know the campaign is working so I’m fully on-board and that’s why we are pushing Improve Your Long Game.” Matthew Hancock, Golf Operations Manager, Coolangatta & Tweed Heads Golf Club.

Hearing Matthew’s views about how we’re helping reduce deaths from cancer and preventing cancer in the NSW community by encouraging people to lead healthy, cancer smart lifestyles gives us encouragement and confidence in achieving our vision of a cancer free society one day. Without the collaboration and support of our community members we would not achieve such incredible results.


Cattle Farmer Darren, doing it for cancer!



In May 2014 Darren’s mum was diagnosed with adrenal cancer, unfortunately passing away in December 2014 at the age of 60.

After, Darren decided he wanted to do something to support those affected by cancer. Being a cattle farmer and wanting to do something a little different, he thought auctioning off a steer would be a great way of raising money.

Last year, Darren’s grandmother also passed from cancer, causing Darren to decide to make auctioning off steer an annual event. He’s now encouraging other cattle farmers to get involved and in the two years they’ve raised an amazing $16,000! Join Darren and Do It For Cancer today!


AFL and Cancer Council NSW Send a Clear Sun Protection Message


Tim Chapman from Cancer Council NSW and Matthew Crawley of AFL NSW/ACT with the imaging machine.

February turned into one of the hottest months on record and while some have the luxury of working in doors, others battle the heat and sun, one such organisation is AFL NSW/ACT.

This year Cancer Council NSW joined forces with AFL NSW/ACT and helped deliver an important Sun Protection message. This involved using the Cancer Council Skin Imaging Machines combined with Sun Protection pamphlets and flyers.

Matthew Crawley NSW North Coast Development Manager “AFL Employees spend hours a day in the sun working with kids and players. While we have good sun protection policy, having our employee’s practices sun protection is always important”

Cancer Council NSW and AFL combined to re-enforce the message that skin damage is not always visible and that damage occurs even on cloudy days.

“The imagining machine and support from Cancer Council was a wonderful addition to the AFL NSW/ACT conference, reinforcing our existing organisational Sun Protection policy”


Who do you relay for?

The Northern Region is deep in Relay for Life season and we thank all the committee chairs, secretaries and members who have dedicated their time and passion into preparing for the upcoming events.

One valued volunteer, Susanne Richards, has been involved in the Ballina Shire Relay for Life for the last five years, and on the Relay Committee for the last two years. After losing her dear friend it prompted her to get involved with Relay .

“She was young and always smiling, someone that could always lift you up when you’re feeling down,” said Susanne.

We often highlight the question, “Who do you relay for?” and Susanne’s response says it all.

rfl banner


“I have more reasons to Relay this year – in July, while I was at a Relay conference, my cousin died of brain cancer. My mum is currently undergoing treatment after having breast cancer, and my dad had a tumor removed from his hip in April. My dad has been fighting Bowel Cancer for 27 years. Of a family of seven, four have battled cancer, one unsuccessfully,” explains local Ballina Shire resident Susanne.

On 25 and 26 March, Susanne will join scores of other dedicated Ballina Shire community members to take to the track in the fight to beat cancer.

To all of our volunteers who are lining up for Relay for Life, we thank you – and here’s some tips to help you through:

  • Stay hydrated
  • Rest when you can
  • Make the most of the comradery
  • Uplift yourself and those around you
  • Pack tissues for the ceremonies
  • Wear comfy shoes and
  • Cut your toenails!!!

All the best to all our Relay for Life teams


Crackin’ good time!

crackin cancer 1

The Crackin’ Cancer and Cumberland Horse Trail Riding Club’s weeklong horse trail ride was once again, a resounding success raising $22,000 for Cancer Council NSW. The purpose of the event, is to raise much needed funds for cancer research, whilst at the same time, offering its participants a great week riding.

“The event has been going for six years now and the Cumberland Trail Horse Trail Riding Club have done an absolutely outstanding job over that period, each year raising as much as they can for a most important and extremely necessary cause,” said Crackin’ Cancer member Marshall Fittler.

crackin cancer 2

“Everyone has been touched by cancer, in some form or other, including Cumberland Horse Trail Riding Club members. The huge ongoing effort to find improved treatments and cures for this disease, is well worth it,” he said.

A special thanks must go to chief organisers of this event, Cathy Wood and Reg Bright as well as the whole club. A final thank you to Crackin’ Cancer’s Marshall Fittler, Laurie Cooper and John Bigalow, for working as volunteers over the six year period of the ride.

marshall fittler

Marshall Fittler presenting the Crackin’ Cancer $22,000 cheque to Cancer Council NSW’s Abby Wallace (Community Relations Coordinator)


Dougie brings home the Australia Day award

dougie award

Doug Stinson and his proud wife Lesley at the Australia Day award ceremony.

Our well decorated volunteer, Doug Stimson, was awarded the Ballina Shire Australia Day Citizen of the Year Award for 2017.  Doug is an all-rounder in the Ballina/ Alstonville/ Lennox Head communities and was recognised for many contributions, including his dedication to Cancer Council NSW’s Relay for Life.  Doug helped establish RFL in Ballina in 2003 and has worked on the event ever since. 

Doug was awarded this honour at the Shire’s Australia Day ceremony attended by dignitaries, including Winter Olympic gold medalist Alisa Camplin.  Upon receiving the award, Doug’s acceptance speech highlighted the amazing work that volunteers do across the community.

“I’m sure I don’t need to say just what a great honour it is to receive this award today – I feel very privileged as I am well aware of the many wonderful people we have in our Shire who do so much for others with limited recognition or support. I guess I should accept the award on their behalf and publicly thank them for their contributions to our Shire and support to those who are perhaps less fortunate than the rest of us.” 

We thank Doug for acknowledging Cancer Council NSW in his speech –  “In many ways I feel that I should be offering my own form of gratitude to the wonderful people and volunteers I have been associated with for what they have done for me in recent years rather than the other way around. The staff and volunteers with the Byron Bay Office of Cancer Council NSW are the most delightful, energetic and passionate people you could ever meet. I have been especially privileged to be associated with them.”

It has been an honour and a privilege to work with Doug and all of our volunteers and we look forward to achieving many more success stories in the future


Staff Achievement Award

Collaboration Award: Dimity Betts, for her success with Palliative Care Advocacy Campaign in the Tamworth area

‘Dimity has built strong community and MP support around the campaign in Tamworth and surrounding communities. The launch was a huge success with local MP’s attending and local TV, print and radio coverage’

Rhian Paton-Kelly, Northern NSW Regional Manager



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