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A history of beating blood cancer

Evolving from a proud tradition of care dating back to 1975, today the Leukaemia Foundation of Australia extends its support across the entire blood cancer spectrum around the country.

The early 1970s: Support is limited

Life for someone diagnosed with the blood cancer called leukaemia was hard and they couldn’t expect much support. Treatment meant months of chemotherapy, severe side-effects and isolation from their family to remove the risk of infection. Parents weren’t allowed to comfort and care for their children, and families had to navigate the psychological challenges alone.

In Queensland, medical staff did their best to deliver quality care with few resources. There was only one haematologist and nurses had limited leukaemia training. A bone marrow transplant was a new life-saving procedure but a lack of transplant facilities in Brisbane meant those strong enough to undergo a bone marrow transplant had to travel south. Their families made the arrangements and covered the expenses. Sadly, many people with leukaemia died while their families suffered and the medical staff looked on in despair.

1975: The Leukaemia Foundation is formed

Brisbane’s first clinical haematologist, Dr Trevor Olsen, agitated for change. Frustrated by the lack of medical and support facilities, he decided with the help of Kurilpa Lions Club, to purchase a laminar flow bed, which protected patients from infection, which was donated to the Mater Hospital. At the time, Dr Olsen was treating a young boy whose father, Bernie Stevenson, was secretary of the Holland Park Lions Club. After watching his young son die from leukaemia, Bernie introduced Dr Olsen to the Holland Park Lions Club, and the Lions Leukaemia Foundation was formed on 9 October 1975.

The new foundation set four goals: to provide medical care, patient support, fund research and to educate patients, their families and nursing staff.

1993 – 2004: Momentum is building

Western Australians were the first people living interstate to benefit from the Leukaemia Foundation of Queensland’s successful model with an office in Perth opening in 1993. In 1995, the Leukaemia Foundation of Western Australia was formed. This led to the establishment of the Leukaemia Foundation of New South Wales and South Australia (1998), then Victoria and Tasmania (1999). Each time, the Leukaemia Foundation of Queensland enlisted the support of leading haematology specialists and nurses to establish support and open an office in each of the capital cities.

2005 – today : Our new journey

In 2005, the Leukaemia Foundation of Australia defederated the New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia state offices and became a united organisation. A central office was established in Brisbane, in close proximity to the Leukaemia Foundation of Queensland, to enable sharing of administration resources, collaboration on national fundraising and awareness campaigns and a National Research Program, that continues today.

In 2016, members of the Leukaemia Foundation of Australia and Leukaemia Foundation of Queensland endorsed a joint Board proposal to unify the two organisations. Now, the Leukaemia Foundation is proud to stand with Australia to help cure and conquer every blood cancer – with care.

With your help, we reach 50% of all newly diagnosed people with blood cancer, whether they are located in metropolitan, regional or remote rural areas. We have also invested millions of dollars into vital research that is discovering better treatments and cures for people living with blood cancer.

Our early years helped to shape today’s maturing organisation, which is still has an unswerving focus on responding to the current and future needs of people impacted by blood cancer, including lymphoma, leukaemia and myeloma.

And we’re just getting started.