More women likely to have breast cancer screening after death of Rebecca Wilson

Rebecca Wilson died from breast cancer on Friday. Photo: Craig WilsonCancer does not discriminate but community awareness of it does.


The luminous trail left by sports journalist Rebecca Wilson, who died from breast cancer on Friday, will include a new march of women to screening clinics, jolted by the reminder of their mortality.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting Australian women, with 300 cases per 100,000 women, but survival rates are high when it is detected early.

The latest report card on breast screening from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare showed the proportion of women aged 50 to 69 getting screened remained steady around 54 per cent between 2010 and 2015.

But after the death of a celebrity, clinics brace themselves for an influx of appointments.

They noted a spike in women seeking mammograms after Kylie Minogue announced that she had breast cancer in 2006, and the same phenomenon occurred after actress Christina Applegate’s diagnosis in 2008 and former first lady Nancy Reagan’s in 1987.

The biggest effect was felt by genetic screening centres after actress Angelina Jolie underwent a double mastectomy to protect herself against the illness that had carried away many of her family.

Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre clinical geneticist Paul James said younger women were often inspired to get genetic tests after a celebrity cancer case, but mammograms were not recommended for women under 40 because it was not as accurate as it was after age 50.

His study on the “Angelina Jolie effect” published in the Medical Journal of Australia found a threefold increase in genetic breast cancer testing comparing the 18 months before her mastectomy and the 18 months after.

Three years later, twice as many women are seeking the service than before.

“It had a peak, but we’re still seeing that residual effect,” Associate Professor James said.

“It’s quite remarkable that change, literally from one week to the next week the referral rate just shot through the roof.”

Familial cancer clinics had to become more targeted and narrow their tests to women who had a high risk of cancer, he said.

NSW Cancer Council director of cancer programs Kathy Chapman said breast cancer had a 90 per cent chance of survival five years after diagnosis, compared to 72 per cent 30 years ago.

But the breast screening rate needed to improve.

“We want to see that increase, and it’s particularly groups like Aboriginal women, and women in low socio-economic circumstances that are probably less likely to participate,” Ms Chapman said.

“Hopefully somebody like Rebecca Wilson who was a sports journalist and well known for her love of footy will be a reminder to women of all demographics and cultures to just be aware that breast cancer can take lives.”

Breast cancer is usually much more aggressive when it returns after a curative treatment, and Wilson would have known that her chances of survival were small when she chose not to publicise that it had returned.

Associate Professor James said women should be aware that her case was an outlier and nine out of 10 women survived if their cancer was detected early.

“Certainly there’s evidence that when you have these events more people consider these issues for the first time and come along to see people like our clinics and GPs and that’s a very positive thing.”

On Saturday, Wilson’s brother Jim Wilson paid tribute to his sister.

“On behalf of husband John, sons Will and Tom and the Wilson family we thank everyone for your kind words of support.

“We’ve been blown away by the messages of support and tributes to our beautiful Beck.

“Beck will forever be in our hearts and loved my big, fearless sister. She had a beautiful soft side and in times of need, Beck would be the first point of call.

“Beck was a trailblazer for women in sports journalism. She wasn’t afraid of taking on head office.

“We didn’t always agree professionally but at the end of the day we’d have a barney, then hug and go and have a vino.

“I love my big sister and Beck was a great mate – the best a brother could ever hope for and I’m a proud bro and yes Beck,at times, I’m a gibberer.”

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Forbes floodwaters ‘falling very slowly’, army provide support

An Australian Army Unimog truck from 5th Brigade moves through inundated roads during flood relief operations in Forbes. Photo: Kyle GennerAustralian Army soldiers have been providing support to regional NSW following major flooding caused by heavy rainfall last month.


Soldiers of the 5th Brigade include members form the engineer regiment and combat service support battalion have provided assistance to local services in Forbes, Condobolin and surrounding areas.

Hydrologist Wei Wang from the Bureau of Meteorology said: “The river levels at Forbes are falling very slowly and moderate floodings continue, but are easing.”

She said light rain is expected on Monday, but will not cause more flooding in the area.

The defence force has provided six high-ground-clearance Unimog trucks, which have assisted emergency services with route reconnaissance, transport of personal and sandbags, additional planning and the rescue of small animals.

The damage bill from floods across central west NSW is expected to top more than $500 million though Roads Minister Duncan Gay said the actual cost could not be tallied until waters recede.

High water levels in the area are expected to last for a number of weeks.

More than 200 landholders have filed damage reports and 20 local government areas were declared natural disaster zones as record rains decimated crops and flooded major catchments across the area.

Mr Gay said the sub-structure of roads were also completely water-logged and it would not be clear how much damage they had sustained until heavy vehicles finally return to the road network in the months ahead.

Parts of the state are expected to reach temperatures of at least 30 degrees on Monday. Sydney’s forecast on Monday is 30 degrees in the city and 32 in the west on Monday.

Duty forecaster Andrew Haigh said a cool change with a “sprinkle” of rain on Monday afternoon will bring relief to the state following the high temperatures.

“The morning will be quite warm and the afternoon will be cooling down with a few showers around,” he said.

Mr Haigh said strong wind warnings are in place along the coast on Sunday.

“We have some parts of the coast that have a gale warning,” he said. “We’ve had a cold front come through and some strong southerlies behind it on Sunday.”

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Peak discrimination body missing in plebiscite debate

Stepan Kerkyasharian, former president of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board. Photo: Domino Postiglione Chris Puplick, president of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board in the 1990s.


Two high-profile former presidents of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board have criticised the Baird government for abandoning what was once a leading voice for social harmony, at a time when discord over a marriage equality plebiscite and racial tension is at a peak.

It has been revealed the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board has had no board members for 10 months, and only an acting president, after the resignation of long-serving president Stepan Kerkyasharian in January.

The failure to replace four board members whose terms expired in December and recruit a permanent president has been criticised by Mr Kerkyasharian and former NSW Liberal senator Chris Puplick, who headed the board for a decade until 2002.

“Amid one of the most divisive and difficult debates, turning on questions of race, gender and ethnicity, they should be there leading the framework of the debate,” Mr Puplick said.

“I can’t think of a time when it was more important to have a balanced advocate in the community. An advocate who understands the appropriate balance between free speech and freedom of expression in a flourishing democratic debate on the one hand, and the limited rules about vilification and racial abuse and sexual harassment.”

Mr Puplick said political divisions over whether to hold a same-sex marriage plebiscite largely centred on whether the public could engage in a “decent discussion” without resorting to vilification.

The board’s absence is also causing concern among ethnic community groups as one community leader says privately it reflects poorly on the Baird government’s commitment to social cohesion at a time of increasing polarisation and fear.

Mr Kerkyasharian, a founder of multiculturalism in NSW, held the dual roles of chief executive of the Community Relations Commission and president of the board for a decade from 2003. “I consider it important that the board positions be filled and there be a president,” he said. “It is vital at this point in time. It should be there to provide advice and impartial and informed leadership in the community.”

The board’s administrative staff continue to process discrimination complaints and conciliate cases, but are unable to perform the wider role of reviewing government legislation, making policy recommendations and participating in legal action.

The board’s manager of inquiries and conciliation Elizabeth Wing has been acting in the president’s role since January. A NSW budget estimates hearing was told by the Department of Justice acting deputy secretary Amanda Torres that Ms Wing was “a temporarily appointed president”.

Mr Kerkyasharian said it was important to have a permanent president. “It provides greater comfort in terms of the person’s capacity to act impartially,” he said.

Mr Puplick said: “The Attorney-General’s Department has always hated statutory bodies that have independence from them.”

The NSW shadow attorney-general Paul Lynch linked the failure to reappoint the board with the Baird government’s inaction on a 2013 parliamentary inquiry recommendation to change the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act to make it easier for vilification charges to be laid.

Under section 20D, the president of the board must refer vilification complaints to the Attorney-General, but the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution has never prosecuted a case in NSW.

“Failing for 10 months to fill vacancies reflects the government’s disinterest in fighting discrimination,” Mr Lynch said. “They have known literally for years that these positions were becoming vacant. They are statutory positions. The government can’t pretend they don’t exist.

“This parallels the Attorney-General’s promise to introduce legislation to amend s20D of the act last year and her failure to do so.”

A spokeswoman for the NSW Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton said the acting president was continuing to carry out the board’s functions: “We expect to fill the board positions soon.”

The board received 1058 formal complaints in 2014-15 and 3881 inquiries. Disability discrimination (22 per cent), race discrimination and vilification (15 per cent), sex discrimination (6 per cent) and age discrimination (5 per cent) were the top issues raised.

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Soccer: Blockbuster derby next up for Kevin Muscat’s men after Brisbane Roar snatch late point

Melbourne Victory boss  Kevin Muscat had the look of a man who had pulled off the perfect smash and grab only to be stopped at gunpoint at the end of the road and mugged of his prize by his victim.


And well he might after Brisbane Roar stole an equaliser with the last kick of the game in a 1-1 season opening draw at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night in which Muscat gave A-League debuts to new signings Alan Baro, James Donachie and Mitch Austin as well as a “welcome back” first appearance to James Troisi, beginning his second stint with the club.

Match officials had signalled five minutes of stoppage time, but the clock was just five seconds short of the six minute mark of added time when Luke De Vere got on the end of a goalmouth scramble to loop the ball over the defence and stranded goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas’s head to give the 10-man Roar a share of the points which, up to that second, looked destined to be heading south.

Victory appeared to have pulled off the perfect smash and grab raid when, with eight minutes remaining and Brisbane reduced to 10 men after the dismissal of skipper Matty McKay with 25 minutes to play,  Austin smashed home a shot from inside the area after the Roar failed to deal with a cross from Fahid Ben Khalfallah.

After Austin’s goal it looked to be double jeopardy for McKay, who should have been celebrating his 200th A-League appearance for the club, until De Vere’s last gasp leveller.

Muscat has stressed throughout the near three years that he has been in charge of Victory that his team will play the game on its own terms, take the match to their opponents and not bother whether they are at home or away.

He was as good as his word this time round as Victory blasted out of the blocks and made the early running although Brisbane pegged them back after that early start in a contest that bore the hallmarks of an opening day stoush: plenty of enthusiasm, commitment and desperation from two teams keen to make an early statement of intent.

Between them Brisbane and Victory have won six of the 11 A-League championships that have been decided and both clubs are expected to be there in the front line this season.

Muscat has strengthened his squad not just by signing Baro, Austin and Donachie, but regaining Troisi and another international, Kiwi Marco Rojas, who is also joining for a second period with the club. The tricky New Zealander was on international duty with the All Whites so missed the trip to Brisbane.

Muscat says Rojas will be back just 24 hours before next Saturday’s blockbuster derby clash with Melbourne City but will play some role in that game as long as he is fit.

The Victory coach said that while his players would undoubtedly be downcast after giving away such a late equaliser they had no reason to be.

“I thought we were very good value, not to concede too many chances, we dominated possession in the first half especially.

“The second half was an arm wrestle and with the amount of fouls it was only a matter of time before someone went.

“I thought James (Donachie) and Alan (Baro) were outstanding … they handled themselves very well. James Troisi brings a great deal of calmness in possession. Fahid had to play a different role for us tonight and he had a good appetite for the game, taking up selfless positions to create space for others.

“They will be downcast, but I won’t allow it. I am pleased with the performance.”

Muscat was particularly happy to have a fully fit and engaged Carl Valeri back in action.

“He brings a lot of calmness to us when we haven’t got the ball, he is obviously very tactically astute, he calms people around him. It’s like we have signed a new player this season.

For Brisbane Brett Holman, the former Socceroo midfielder who has joined the Queensland club this season, put in a good shift for his first 60 minutes and coach John Aloisi will be looking forward to the impact he can have when he gets fully into the Brisbane groove.

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A country that once built cars: A sad goodbye to a manufacturing industry

Moving on: Holden engineers are being offered new opportunities abroad, as well as outside the company. Sacked Ford workers leaving the Broadmeadows plant at the end of their last shift. Photo: Penny Stephens


Ford Australia’s Broadmeadows plant has stopped running. Photo: Supplied

To my mates and me, the acrid fumes from the automotive paint and subsequent baking booths merely provided enough cover for our most daring stunt yet – smoking cigarettes right under the nose of one of our most reviled and authoritarian teachers.

With those hydrocarbons swirling about, who knows how dangerous this really was?

This was the 1970s and, not for the first time, we were being led around the sprawling Chrysler-Mitsubishi factory by our technical studies teacher and a company guide.

As they shouted over a cacophony of noise and the occasional shower of sparks, explaining the various stages in the automotive production line, we took advantage, whenever they weren’t looking, to lug on the illicit fags held cupped and lit in our lumber-jacket pockets.

If memory serves, on the production line that day in the Tonsley plant on Adelaide’s southern industrial fringe, were the first of the jointly badged Japanese-Australian vehicles. They may have been the Valiant Gallants, or Colts and Sigmas, or perhaps the bigger Valiants in the ’70s – in sedan and station-wagon and utility format – and the racier Valiant Charger, a Dodge-derived, yet only half-successful, foil to the Falcon GTs and Holden Monaros.

As teenage boys, we were pretty well all car nuts, linking our aspiring vehicle ownership with the freedom and independence we naturally craved.

Among my crew, a number of mates fully expected to wind up in the plant as soon as they were old enough – assembling crankshafts, spot-welding panels, fitting exhausts or perhaps installing windscreens.

These were realistic, attainable, goals born of visible horizons.

As for our car plans, we coveted only Holdens, Fords, and Valiants.

The production line was just that. We’d seen most of it before anyway. After all, for me, this was (I think) my third school excursion to the giant car-making complex.

I guess it was a default choice for teachers – an easily arranged local sojourn from the two schools I attended, situated as both were, just kilometres either side of the factory.

Car making formed the axis point of much employment and interconnected economic activity in the city’s south. A nascent wine-making industry in the nearby Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale was talking off but that was largely a rural pursuit.

Towards Adelaide’s northern outskirts, lay Holden’s Elizabeth plant. These major employers, Holden and Chrysler-Mitsubishi, were the bridge pylons of the SA economy during the heyday of Australian manufacturing.

And they seemed every bit as permanent as the city itself.

It was a similar story across the border in Victoria where legendary manufacturing plants like Ford’s Geelong and Broadmeadows sites and GM Holden’s Fisherman’s Bend – where Ben Chifley had greeted the first “FX” Holden rolling off the production line in 1948 – were household names.

Not long after this however, Chrysler, which had long been the financially weaker of the three Australian-American big boys, folded and the Tonsley plant became a solely Mitsubishi affair turning out some pretty gormless marques like the front-wheel-drive Magna.

This trailed the rise of the Japanese car industry, noted for smaller, cheaper, more fuel-efficient cars. But even this was a mere way-station on the road to oblivion.

On Friday, the last Holden Cruze rolled off the production line in Holden’s Elizabeth plant and Ford ceased its manufacturing operations altogether at its Broadmeadows and Geelong sites.

The Falcon, a staple of Australian roads, winner of countless head-to-head races against Holden, and apple of many a young Australian’s eye, will also die.

Holden will continue making some vehicles, as will Toyota, but by this time next year Australia will be a country that once built cars.

Thousands of people will have been tossed out of work – 600 by Ford last week alone.

Some will have re-trained and started new careers already. Others will keep looking for months and perhaps pick up some hours.

Many will not work again, as was the case for about a third of the car-workers turfed out of Tonsley when Mitsubishi finally wound up in South Australia in 2008.

As Labor’s Kim Carr, a tireless defender of the Australian car industry, said on Friday, the two areas where Ford is shutting manufacturing are notable for joblessness rates well above the national average – as high as 22 per cent.

“Youth unemployment is harder to gauge, but on some estimates it is as high as 40 per cent in Melbourne’s north-west,” he wrote.

“Many of the Broadmeadows workers are also older and from non-English speaking backgrounds, which makes job hunting harder even at the best of times.”

Given that the entire sector had to be propped up by taxpayers to defy the allure of cheaper labour in China and Thailand, its demise has been coming for a decades.

That doesn’t make it less significant.

I guess the idea of taking kids to a local manufacturing plant seems pretty curious today. But then, like many people, I now drive a German car.

Mark Kenny is chief political correspondent.

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