Cancer Council Australia

Annual Review 2017-2018

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Advocacy highlights

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Our advocacy priorities

We determine our policy and advocacy priorities then develop recommendations for government by considering the latest research and evidence about what works, as well as listening to our communities to understand the needs and concerns of people affected by cancer.

We develop, promote and advocate for evidence-based policy, programs, education campaigns and resources across all cancer types and all areas of cancer control.

In 2016-17 our key recommendations to government included:

  • increasing participation in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program to reduce the number of bowel cancer deaths
  • renewing federal funding for mass media anti-smoking campaigns to continue to drive down smoking rates
  • funding a national skin cancer awareness campaign to remind Australians of the need to reduce UV exposure and protect their skin
  • introducing clearer mandatory food labelling (including refining the Health Star System) to help Australian make healthier eating choices
  • funding a sustained national social marketing campaign to encourage Australians to maintain a healthy weight, improve their diet and increase physical activity
  • taking action to improve cancer prevention in workplaces
  • reviewing how cancer medicines are subsidised, to provide speedier access and to assist people facing inequities
  • reforming cancer research policy, to increase focus on poor-survival cancer types, variations in clinical outcomes and opportunities for improved prevention.

We also supported the renewal of Australia’s cervical cancer screening program and urged the federal government to fund key bowel cancer, tobacco and skin cancer measures in the 2017-18 federal budget. We also undertook a range of media activities to promote these recommended measures.

In addition, we continued our research investigating how the cost of a cancer diagnosis impacts on individuals, both in terms of their health outcomes and quality of life.

Twenty years of bowel cancer advocacy

Bowel cancer remains one of the most common cancers in Australia, and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths after lung cancer. Bowel cancers can be both prevented and detected early through screening, with early stage bowel cancer having over 90% five-year survival rate. 

Cancer Council Australia began recommending bowel cancer population screening in the late 1990s, when research identified that it would significantly reduce deaths. For two decades we have advocated for a fully implemented national bowel cancer screening program to reduce cancer deaths in Australia, and we are the only charity that has contributed to the development of the national program at every stage. In 2004, after three successful pilot studies, we called on the government and opposition to urgently introduce the program. Successive governments have endorsed our budget submissions, and the federal opposition adopted a plan for full implementation as policy in 2013.

The year 2017 marked a turning point for the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, with government commitment to full implementation by 2020. This means the majority of Australians aged 50 to 74 (the recommended age cohort) are now being invited for screening every two years.  

The priority now is to increase participation to maximise the program’s lifesaving benefits. Cancer Council research has estimated that 84,000 bowel cancer deaths could be prevented by 2040 if 60% of people eligible for screening are participating by 2020. Current participation is around 40% and improving.

We continue to call on the government to fund a national campaign to increase participation.

Advice to government

One of the ways we provide advice and recommendations to the federal government is by participating in government and parliamentary reviews and public consultations.

Cancer Council Australia made submissions to many policy reviews and government consultations in 2016-17, related to various aspects of cancer control and care, including:

  • the cancer risks related to alcohol and cancer, to inform Australian guidelines on reducing health risks from drinking alcohol
  • funding for research for cancers with low survival rates
  • improvements to data availability from both the private and public health sectors
  • recommendations in relation to genomics for individuals at increased risk of cancer
  • recommendations for the National Digital Health Strategy
  • proposed reforms to the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment scheme, and the potential impact on cancer risks and carcinogens in the workplace
  • reducing vehicle emissions to reduce cancer risk
  • the availability and cost of medicines
  • the role of the Therapeutics Goods Administration in relation to overseas regulators and enhanced international collaboration
  • inequities in access to treatment, medicine approvals and alternative pathways for prescription medicines
  • Indigenous health priorities, including reducing smoking prevalence, increasing cancer screening and removing barriers to treatment.

A sample of our submissions can be found here.


This page was last updated on: Thursday, December 21, 2017