Message from Michelle Smerdon, National Pro Bono Manager
You may have seen an army of yellow around your home or office in late August. That was us, along with thousands of generous volunteers working with Cancer Council, on Daffodil Day. The day for me is always a wonderful opportunity to talk to the community about the valuable support we can offer to people affected by cancer, and to share some of the amazing outcomes that result from the generosity of our volunteer professionals. I am also privy to stories from people affected by cancer who have used and benefited from Cancer Council’s support services. Each year, Daffodil Day marks a day of hope, and with every daffodil sold, Cancer Council can invest in life-saving research to give Australians the best chance of survival.
This edition we talk with an avid referrer to the program, Brigitte Mahony, social worker at The Alfred Hospital, who reflects on why she refers people to the program and the outcomes she sees for people affected by cancer.
Speaking of outcomes, over the last few months we have received news of incredible support provided to people affected by cancer referred to the program across the country and you will see a case study featured in this edition. We heard of a man diagnosed with pancreatic cancer who was assisted by a financial planner to locate superannuation he didn’t know he had. The financial planner assisted him to access over $100,000 of superannuation and insurance through the fund. We’ve also heard stories of lawyers assisting people to navigate travel insurance disputes successfully, as well as lawyers travelling out to clients to assist with wills and power of attorney documents. We’ve seen the true value of the support professionals have provided through feedback from people affected by cancer who have let us know how grateful they are for the assistance, and that the professionals we referred them to are so skilled, generous and compassionate. It is clear that we are all working together to reduce the impact of cancer on individuals and lessening their burden, so they can focus on their health. We really couldn’t do it without your support.
As always, a very big thank you for your referrals to the program, as well as the advice and support provided to people affected by cancer as we enter the end of a very productive year. I look forward to touching base again before we enter the festive season!
Michelle Smerdon, National Pro Bono Manager
Chatting with Brigitte Mahony, social worker at The Alfred Hospital
Brigitte Mahony is a social worker at The Alfred Hospital in Victoria who has referred people affected by cancer to the Cancer Council Pro Bono Program for several years. Brigitte talks about her involvement in the program and the benefits her patients and their families have experienced through the program.
What is your role and what has been your involvement in the Cancer Council Pro Bono Program?
As a social worker at The Alfred Hospital working in oncology and haematology, I provide support to patients and their families throughout the trajectory of their illness. My role is to address and minimise the significant challenges and hardships that patients and families face as a result of a cancer diagnosis. Part of my role is identifying the financial and legal burden that our patients are experiencing and referring these patients to the experts at the Pro Bono Program at the Cancer Council, to address these concerns.
How did you first get involved in the Pro Bono Program?
Working in the acute hospital setting in the oncology field, it is imperative you are aware of the oncology specific organisations and services available. The diagnosis of cancer can have a significant impact upon patients and their family’s financial position and result in legal concerns. I first learnt of the Pro Bono Program in 2012. Since then I have attended multiple information sessions which has consolidated my knowledge about the Pro Bono Program. The amazing feedback provided by my patients over the years has given me great satisfaction, as I know I am connecting patients with professionals who are empathic towards their difficult situation.
What do you see as the key benefits of referring people affected by cancer to the Pro Bono Program?
The Cancer Council Pro Bono Program has positively impacted the lives of many. Patients are reassured and comforted to know they have a professional advocating on their behalf. Volunteer professionals educate our patients and assist them in accessing resources and insurances that they may not have known they were even eligible for. The positive impact the program has upon patients and their families is fabulous. The Pro Bono Program results in increased financial and legal stability as well as minimising distress for the patient and family, giving them the space to focus on their health and emotional wellbeing.
Through the Pro Bono Program, professional service providers generously volunteer their time and expertise to assist people affected by cancer who could otherwise be unable to afford the cost of assistance. The case study of Samuel* below is one of many examples of the incredible support provided by these professionals.
The Pro Bono Program assisted Samuel, a client with a brain tumour and a prognosis of 6-12 months. Samuel let the Pro Bono team know that he wanted to get his affairs in order by completing a will and power of attorney documents, and that he needed advice and assistance to access his superannuation and any insurance. The Pro Bono team referred Samuel onto a lawyer and a financial planner who would assist him on a free basis.
After over a year of work and time spent supporting and advising this family, the financial planner reached out to the Pro Bono Program to let us know the outcome of his work.
The financial planner let us know that initially Samuel was informed by his superannuation fund that he had no insurance in force and therefore was not entitled to make any claim. The financial planner conducted research and felt that despite the circumstances, a retrospective claim on Samuel’s insurance could be pursued as Samuel had cancer at the time the insurance was in force. The financial planner advocated on Samuel’s behalf with the insurer, and assisted Samuel to access his total and permanent disability insurance which was over $70,000.
Following Samuel’s death, the financial planner continued to advocate on behalf of his family to access his life and income protection insurance which added significant additional funds to Samuel’s estate.
This case underscores how critical it is for people, particularly people affected by cancer, to be able to access professional assistance. The financial planner let us know that the family had the peace of mind they needed knowing that Samuel’s financial affairs were being professionally managed and that they didn’t need to undertake this work themselves.
*Name has been changed
Daffodil Day 2018
On Friday 24 August, Cancer Council celebrated 32 years of Daffodil Day. Daffodil Day is one of the most important events in Cancer Council’s calendar, and this year was another huge success. Volunteers and supporters gathered across the country to collect donations and sell fresh daffodils and other merchandise to raise funds for life-saving cancer research.
The daffodil is the international symbol of hope and represents Cancer Council’s hope for a cancer free future. Over the past 5 years, Cancer Council and its research partners have invested over $285 million in world-class cancer research. This would not be possible without the incredible support of the community on events like Daffodil Day.
This year Daffodil Day has raised approximately $3.3 million so far, which is a fantastic result and will significantly contribute to giving Australians the best chance of a cancer free future.
The Pro Bono team particularly enjoyed their time on the day, as pictured below. The team loved the opportunity to speak with members of the community about the work of the Pro Bono Program, and to hear stories about their experiences with Cancer Council’s support services.
We would like to thank everyone who generously contributed to Daffodil Day this year. It was an incredible day and it is always fantastic to see such enormous support from the community.
Eliminating cervical cancer
This month marked a momentous milestone in cancer research, as it was announced that Australia is set to eliminate cervical cancer by 2035.
New research has predicted that Australia is on track to be the first country in the world to eliminate cervical cancer, following the success of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination program and the changes to the National Cervical Screening Program. This research shows that if vaccinations and screening are maintained at their current rates, cervical cancer is likely to be eliminated as a public health issue within 20 years.
Cervical cancer is one of the world’s most common cancer types, and it is an incredible achievement in cancer research that this will soon be considered a rare cancer in Australia and eliminated in the next 20 years. This reflects the life-saving cancer research funded by Cancer Council, which would not be possible without the incredible support of the community.
More information about this research can be found here.
Pro Bono in the news
Kindness collective: behind the adviser pro bono movement. Professional Planner (September 2018).
Pro bono legal work and corporate social responsibility – an evening for in-house corporate lawyers. Australian Pro Bono Centre (September 2018).
Cervical cancer set to be eliminated from Australia in global first. Sydney Morning Herald (October 2018).
Tips for talking to someone with cancer. Cancer Council WA (September 2018).