Helen Polley flip 2
 Nov 17, 2017

Senator Helen Polley's passionate speech about the ONJ Centre

Senator Helen Polley gave a speech to the Australian Parliament Senate on 14 November 2017 about her recent visit to the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre:

"Last week I had the privilege of visiting the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in Melbourne.

In September this year the singer and actress Olivia Newton-John visited Canberra. We really know her more fondly as one of the favourite daughters of this country. She came to Canberra to meet Australia's political leaders and discuss how to support the country's medical researchers to continue making discoveries for people living with cancer.

While I was speaking to Olivia, she encouraged me to visit the centre, and I'm so happy that I did, because what I saw firsthand—the dedication of the nursing and medical care staff, the world-leading cancer researchers and the research that is actually taking place in this centre—is leading the way in this country. It lived up to all expectations.

Firstly, I met with Cherie Cheshire, the Director of Cancer Services, and Penelope Sanderson, the Divisional Manager Integrated Cancer Services, who showed me around the Cancer Wellness Centre. Olivia was very definite when she spoke about the benefits of the centre and that you need to treat the entire person. This is a holistic approach, and the centre reflected that with great empathy, support and encouragement.

You can see that there are traces of Olivia throughout the Wellness Centre and that she has been hands-on in designing, along with the architects, the sort of centre that she wanted, even down to the point that there were a couple of tables that had been built from timber off her own property.

The research that's going on in the laboratories there is just magnificent. The way the whole centre is set out is that up on the top two floors you have a ward of people that are being treated for their cancer and you have the researchers. There's such interaction there between the clinical caring and researchers and the patients themselves. The benefits that are coming out of having patients so close to the researchers is testament to the sort of success that they've had in their research.

I wanted to particularly thank Associate Professor Andrew Weickhardt, Dr Doug Fairlie and Dr Erinna Lee for the time that they spent showing me through the laboratories, which allowed me to have a greater understanding of the research that they're undertaking there. I want to encourage other senators and people who are listening here tonight. We have some magnificent research happening in this country.

We all know those who have been touched—and we've all been touched and our families have been touched—by cancer. We know the important work that has been undertaken at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute and we know that its integration with the Olivia Newton-John Centre will lead to better outcomes for those who have been diagnosed with cancer.

I can't stress enough the importance of us continuing to fund the research. It was fantastic, when [Olivia Newton-John] was up here, that Mr Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Labor Party, committed $20 million to go to that research, if we are successful at the next federal election.

When you're in a place where there are so many challenges for people's health, we need to invest and do more as far as research is concerned."