Liz’s personal and professional achievements leave a shining trail in her wake which we can all admire.
A passionate advocate
When asked about her personal volunteering highlights, Liz very modestly mentioned she not only established but also chairs the Northern Sydney Cancer Action Network – a group of enthused advocates who identify and campaign on cancer issues that affect their local community.
“I think it’s really great to see how the team come together and start working together and then start having little wins. It makes them want to do more.”
This important activity inspired a book written by and for the community: Lymphoedema Stories – The Untold Truth. Project managed by Liz and published by Cancer Council NSW, it’s a valuable resource for the community which shares the personal stories from members of the Lymphoedema Support Group NSW.
Liz’s other advocacy highlights include Smoke-free North Sydney which came about in 2010 because one of the two local councils in Northern Sydney did not have a policy around smoke-free outdoor areas.
“I was an advocacy volunteer at the time, working on the North Shore Relay For Life, and this was an issue that we decided to work on. We set about getting community support and raising awareness.”
Local media helped lobby the council, and in August that year the council agreed to put a survey on their website to gauge community support.
“We promoted this and asked the community for support. As a result, the survey showed a 93% approval for the council to put in place Smoke-Free Outdoor Policies – and on October 1 2010, the council agreed to an Outdoor Smoke-Free Policy.”
A creative thinker
Liz was also one of the masterminds behind some exciting recent fundraising events for Cancer Council. The Breakthrough Art Festival saw talented artists donate original artworks inspired by the theme of Hope.
Stars of the North – Dance for Cancer, convinced 11 local heroes to get out of their comfort zones and bust a move on the dance floor to raise money for cancer research and support services.
“We tried not to pick people who are ‘famous’ so much as people who are more involved in the community. So there was a real estate agent, a local guy who grew up in North Bridge who was a former Olympian, an author who lost his son to cancer – so he’s quite involved in raising money for cancer charities.
Paula McLeod who is the Head and Neck Cancer Care Coordinator at Royal North Shore Hospital was amazing – not only did she raise a lot of money, she was so passionate about the cause and had a big fan following. The Mayor of Willoughby, Gail Giles-Gidney, was also a driving force behind the event and on top of being the highest fundraiser, she also won the People’s Choice award.”
An inspiring volunteer
This year Cancer Council’s Sydney Metro Community Engagement Manager nominated Liz for the National Volunteering Awards.
“Jessica Green nominated me, so that was pretty nice, because of the Cancer Action Network. Going to the awards makes you think ‘Oh my gosh – there are so many people out there doing so much stuff, why am I even nominated!’”
Our dedicated volunteers are a vital pillar of support for Cancer Council NSW. These amazing individuals come from diverse backgrounds and generously dedicate their time and expertise in a variety of ways.
Liz says one common theme connects them all: “When people get involved with Cancer Council, they’re often getting involved because they’ve had some family experience or personal experience with cancer.”
Liz recalls that sometimes when someone we know has cancer we are left feeling a bit helpless – knowing what to say or do when we want to help can suddenly feel overwhelming.
“By volunteering and getting involved, especially with some of the Advocacy stuff, people feel like they are making a real difference … They feel they are able to do something, even if it is for cancer generally, it’s helping their friend indirectly.”
Like many of us, Liz knows firsthand what it’s like to watch a close friend with cancer undergo treatment.
“One of my good friends got diagnosed in March and she’s having the most terrible time. She got bad side effects after the chemo and she’s now quite debilitated by that. And you think, yes I can cook her a meal but what can I really do?”
One of Liz’s favourite things about volunteering is meeting inspiring individuals.
“I’ve met the most amazing people. Volunteering puts you in different groups of people that you wouldn’t normally meet socially necessarily, or in a work situation.”
Another surprising benefit of volunteering is a sense of broadening one’s horizons.
“I have a much broader view of life and situations. I’m not wanting to be clichéd but I’m a much better person – you’re not so in your little ‘cocoon’.”