Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's remarks at the Ovarian Cancer Teal Ribbon Breakfast, Canberra.
The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health
Thanks very much to the amazing Jane and Paula, and Jane, thank for your beautiful acknowledgement of Indigenous Australia.
To all of the leaders and women within Ovarian Cancer Australia, you do an extraordinary job in representing what is an incredibly distressing and challenging condition, but on which we are on the path to addressing, treating, and ultimately conquering.
To my Parliamentary colleagues; to Kelly O’Dwyer, Minister for Women amongst other things, and somebody who’s an absolutely passionate, passionate ambassador for Ovarian Cancer Australia and has been one of the great advocates, along with yourselves, of TRACEBACK.
To Bill and to Catherine and to Parliamentary colleagues from all sides who are here on a genuine unity ticket to see Bill and I as the teal twins together. That’s a rare achievement and it shows that we are all in very strong solidarity.
But especially to Christine and David and Jack, it took a lot of courage. It takes a lot of courage to share that family story. And to both of you for speaking, thank you, and to both of you for inspiring and honouring Elisha, thank you very much.
You know, you asked which amongst us has done our family history. There are a lot of us who’ve done the family history in the last few months that we may not have previously, and whilst there haven’t been any unwelcome surprises, the family history that you’re talking about is a much more serious one.
It’s about life or death. It’s about the possibility of a future, it’s about giving people that sense of relief or opportunity to take action. And I see behind you Professor David Bowtell from Peter Mac, and Rachel - who’s the principal researcher and the leader of the clinical oncology team - and so many others that are involved in taking that family history of recognising the BRCA gene and giving women the opportunity to take steps to address their lives and to deal with the challenge.
We know that every year, over 1500 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer. We know that, despite the best medical advances, we still lose over a thousand beautiful lives every year.
Since last year, we’ve been in a fortunate position to list Olaparib, and I met Jill who said that that drug has saved her life, that that drug – which would otherwise have cost $100,000 a year and never been within the reach of any Australian other than the very fortunate few – is now on the PBS as a consequence of the medical science research and the early advocacy, Jane, of yourself, and Kelly and Paula and so many others.
But also, importantly, the BRCA testing came onto the Medicare list in November and that means that women – and not just women, but others with a family history of BRCA – will be able to receive that testing. But the next step is today.
When we met last year, you spoke about the need for the TRACEBACK program, and we’ve been fortunate to contribute – and Helen Zorbas is here as the leader of Cancer Australia – over $30 million to research recently in the ovarian cancer space.
But the next big breakthrough is about ensuring that where there is a family history and where no longer are we able to access the mother or the grandmother to test for BRCA, there is a set of genetic material which can now be analysed, which is in the banks in the reach of Peter MacCallum.
And we can now find out whether or not that BRCA gene existed and was potentially a contributing factor to the mum or the grandmother having ovarian cancer, and project forward to provide information advice to the next generation as to whether or not they are at risk, and therefore should seek their own genetic testing.
This is the TRACEBACK program, and it’s about saving lives and protecting lives, and I am delighted to announce that the Federal Government will initiate the TRACEBACK program to give Australian women today the chance to understand what was the condition that their mother or grandmother faced or other relatives, and to give them the opportunity to know their circumstances and to take action.
We believe, on the advice – and I spoke with David yesterday – that this can prevent 800 women from receiving and dealing with ovarian cancer over the course of the next decade, and potentially 2000 women from contracting breast cancer over the next decade.
It’s a profoundly important step forward. I want to thank and honour our researchers, our advocates, and everybody involved. As of today, the TRACEBACK program will be available to Australian families.
It’s a means of protecting lives and saving lives, and above all else, honouring those such as Jack’s mum, Elisha. Thank you.