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Children's Cancer Institute Reception, Admiralty House


I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Cammeraygal People of the Eora Nation, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present, emerging leaders and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders gathered here today.

Good morning, everyone. Linda and I are delighted to welcome you to Admiralty House.

Today’s lunchtime reception is an opportunity for us to mingle with you, to hear about the success of the ZERO Childhood Cancer Program and to thank you for the wonderful work you are doing.

We have representatives here today from the Children’s Cancer Institute, Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Sydney Children’s Hospital Foundation and the ZERO Childhood Cancer Capacity Campaign, as well as Alex Burai and Vivian Rosati, parents of Jack — a ZERO success story.

Welcome, all.

Why do Linda and I admire the work of your organisations so much? Because they — through your expertise, dedication and unwavering commitment — want to find a cure for childhood cancer.

It’s not an easy task. Childhood cancer is extremely complex. Science is the key to finding a cure. Solving this problem is one of the critical things our society faces. 

Cancer diagnoses keep mounting up. Every year, 950 Australian children and adolescents will be diagnosed with cancer. Every week, nearly three Australian children and adolescents will die of cancer.

The Children’s Cancer Institute exists solely to put an end to childhood cancer. The Institute is making great strides toward this goal. Sixty years ago, cancer was nearly always a death sentence for a child. Now, eight out of 10 children survive.

And what made that huge difference? Medical research.

As the only independent medical institute in Australia wholly dedicated to researching the causes, prevention and cure of childhood cancer, your role is vital.

At the core of the Institute’s ZERO Childhood Cancer Program is a national clinical trial for children with cancer. ZERO is based on the understanding that every child’s cancer is unique, and that to save more lives we need to personalise treatment and tailor treatment to the individual.

Every child taking part in the trial has a sample from their tumour sent to the Children’s Cancer Institute, where scientists analyse the cancer at a molecular level, looking for clues about what is driving its growth and how it might best be treated.

The three-year clinical trial was launched in 2017 for Australian children with the most aggressive and difficult to treat cancers — children who have exhausted all other treatment options and face a less than 30 per cent chance of survival.

By the end of this year more than 400 children will have taken part.

Jack Burai, to whom I referred earlier, was enrolled in the ZERO program. A sample of his cancer was sent to the lab. Researchers identified a specific genetic mutation likely to be driving the cancer as well as a combination of drugs capable of treating it. Within a few days, Jack was sitting up in bed. Six weeks later, he was playing tennis and riding his bike. To Alex and Vivian (Jack’s parents) — we all share your joy.

I want to say a few words about the value of partnerships. I think the value is pretty evident as I look around the room today, hear of the ZERO Childhood Cancer Program’s many achievements and reflect on the $10 million raised for the program.

The Capacity Campaign and Board was established to raise funds to support the delivery of ZERO. The program cost $58 million of which the Capacity Campaign and Board contributed $10 million. Put simply, the money raised through the Capacity Campaign was fundamental to the success of the program. That success is testament to the strong and productive partnership between the Campaign Capacity Board and its partners, supporters, clinicians and researchers.

Your support is highly valued. Well done to all involved, and thank you for what you do.