HANSARD OF THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL – PARLIAMENT HOUSE
THURSDAY 1 NOVEMBER 2007
DRAGON BOAT RACING & BREAST CANCER
Who would have thought, Mr President, that a slightly quirky idea to link the rather obscure sport of dragon boat racing to breast cancer would have become a worldwide movement? Yet the idea, which emerged in Canada in 1996 has now spread to my electorate, on the Tamar. Later this month at least three 40-foot dragon boats, each crewed by 22 pink-clad breast cancer survivors and supporters are to take part in the Bass and Flinders Boat Festival. The crew consists of 20 paddlers plus a sweep oar and a drummer. The three dragon boats will come from Hobart and Devonport and it is likely to be the debut of a new boat bought by the northern Tasmanian Dragons Abreast group.
On Australia Day all the Tasmanian dragon boats will take part in the Australia Day River Festival on the Tamar and what a sight that is going to be. I can attest to being puzzled by the Dragons Abreast phenomenon when I first heard about it; bright-pink ladies racing around in dragon boats -
Ms Ritchie - Good fun.
Mr FINCH - That is right. It does make a lot of sense, does it not?
It makes sense for those who have suffered life-threatening illnesses such as breast cancer to experience support and solidarity. The trauma of experiencing breast cancer evokes a range of emotional issues, I am sure, not only in the life-threatening diagnosis and the continual fear of recurrence but also in the body-altering treatments which affect self-image, a sense of femininity, identity and confidence. As one Canadian woman, who experienced the dragon boat phenomenon, said soon after it started:
'We have learned so much ? that yes, we have a mental and physical strength to live full and very active lives after a diagnosis of breast cancer.'
It is probably not so very surprising to learn that the physical exercise of paddling a dragon boat is beneficial for those who have had surgery for breast cancer. The vigorous upper-arm movements - being exhibited here by the member for Mersey - promote overall fitness and it also helps to prevent lymph oedema, a swelling of the upper arm that often results after lymph nodes are removed during breast cancer surgery. These women who take part in dragon boat events become role models for other breast cancer patients, giving inspiration to others to lead full and active lives following the physical and emotional limitations that a cancer diagnosis imposes, as well as having a lot of fun with it.
The Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Network Australia, Lyn Swinburne, says that every day 36 Australian women are told they have breast cancer, and that statistic must affect all Tasmanian communities; all Australian communities in fact. Communities are increasingly demonstrating support for those affected, with events such as dragon boat races and other outdoor and indoor events. It is not just an issue of increasing community awareness about the suffering of breast cancer patients but also of fundraising to support them. For example, Breast Cancer Network Australia has received thousands of donations to fund its continuing work in empowering, informing, representing and linking people whose lives have been affected by breast cancer. In my community the Rotary and Lions clubs around Launceston have supported the Dragons Abreast Northern Tasmania Incorporated who await their new Launceston boat. Businesses along the Tamar have donated prizes for raising funds and the President Kathy McConnell said that a member, Sue King, and her partner, Greg Rawson, have donated $10 000. Cathy went on to say, 'We are all in awe of their generosity and selflessness. If one woman notices us and visits her doctor for a check then we have achieved our aim'.
It is an encouraging example of communities facing an unpleasant phenomenon and doing something constructive to help.