Cancer Centre for Western NSW

By Nicole Shanks
Public Relations Director, Rotary Club of Dubbo West

The Rotary Club of Dubbo West became involved with the Western Cancer Centre in 2015, when doctors Florian Honeyball and Colin McClintock came to their meeting as guest speakers to discuss the need for a positron emission tomography (PET-CT) scanner in Dubbo. This piece of medical equipment helps to more effectively diagnose cancers, alleviating the associated costs and need for patients to make the long, exhausting trip to Sydney.

But members felt a single piece of equipment was not enough and that Dubbo deserved an integrated cancer centre to serve western NSW.

So, they joined forces with other interested parties, such as the Jimmy Little Foundation, and lobbied to make this a reality. While previous campaigns for better cancer services in Dubbo had been unsuccessful, the redevelopment of the existing hospital, in progress at the time, proved perfect timing.

The party contacted federal, state and local politicians for their support. Federal MP Mark Coulton passionately backed the call, his staff assisted with negotiating the hurdles of writing and presenting a petition to Parliament.

PICTURED LEFT: President of the Rotary Club of Dubbo West Colin Shanks, left, Western Cancer Centre Foundation Chairman and Chief Oncologist Dr Florian Honeyball, Rotary Club of Dubbo West member and Western Cancer Centre Foundation Committee Member Lyn Smith, and Dubbo West Member Neil Sharkey; PICTURED RIGHT: Federal MP Mark Coulton presenting the final results of the petition – which had 45,961 signatures – to parliment.

Dubbo West members manned tables at shopping centres and farmers markets to obtain signatures on the petition, and community groups and shops also assisted by collecting signatures.

Mark Coulton helped get the petitions distributed throughout the western area and lobbied tirelessly inside government, producing the final results of the petition, which had 45,961 signatures. He successfully secured an election campaign promise of funding, and negotiated with then State MP Troy Grant for the NSW government to match the federal offer. In all, the campaign resulted in $35 million in state and federal funding.

Finally, after six years, the Western Cancer Centre opened in September 2021 and has already begun assisting those in the western area. It consists of clinic rooms, a reception area, a 16-bed chemotherapy treatment area, a PET-CT scanner and radiation therapy.

Dubbo West Rotary has also provided some seed funding for the establishment of the Western Cancer Centre Foundation, of which Rotarian Lyn Smith is a member. The aim of the foundation is to improve cancer care and quality of life for people living with cancer and their families throughout western NSW. This includes education, support and a Wellness Centre providing allied health and other non-medical services for those living with cancer, which is now open.