PCFA Victorian Chapter Conference Report

Report on the Victorian & Tasmanian Chapter of the PCFA
October 23 - 24. Ballarat Belltower Motel


AWPCSN representatives
Glenn Rose, David Ryan, Colin Maxwell.


We got to Ballarat about 7pm on Thursday night in time to check in to the motel, have a few drinks, dinner and introduce ourselves to the organisers and other delegates.
There were 80 people at the conference.


Friday 23rd October
The conference was opened by the Mayor of Ballarat. 
The day's speakers were"
  • Max Shub - Chair of the Victorian Chapter welcomed all delegates and invited each group present to introduce themselves.
  • David Rhodes (PCFA Manager for Victoria & Tasmania) described how the Victorian Branch of the PCFA was organised and staffed and outlined the main focus items of the Foundation
  • Amanda Spillane and Robyn Metcalfe from Cancer Council Victoria delivered training sessions to help delegates understand their own support group success factors, and the potential risks such as lack of a succession plan to ensure the group is sustainable if key persons are no longer available to drive a support group's activities. This gave the groups opportunity to share what things work for them and what are not so effective. A member feedback survey tool was presented as a useful device for understanding the needs of members.
  • The Giant Underpants were put out on display for a photo opportunity and media interest. The word "giant" is an understatement.
  • Dr Lydia Johns Putra, an Urologist from the Ballarat region spoke about issues surrounding the diagnosis and treatment options for men with prostate cancer. She was very well received and provided a balanced view of the current controversy over the value or otherwise of a PSA screening program. mess
  • David Rhodes spoke again about how support groups could get their message across to local media organisations when necessary. Unfortunately the conference audio visual equipment was not up to the task of displaying a DVD on media strategies. Problems with computers and microphones were a constant distraction to the conference.
  • David Juriansz from Beyondblue finished the day with an excellent and informative discussion on what depression means, suggestions for helping sufferers instead of leaping straight to diagnosis of their problem, and ran through the huge range of resources available form Beyondblue and how to access their services. He played a video "Don't Beat Around the Bush" featuring a farmer who had suffered a depressive breakdown, illustrating the warning signs are not always listened to, and the difficulties faced on the recovery journey. 
  • Evening dinner in the motel dining room featured an inspirational guest speaker ( John Burt I think his name was) the Principal of Ballarat's main Specialist School for children with all sorts of disability. This chap was instrumental in turning the school around to the point where it is a model for special schools in Victoria. He has worked tirelessly to improve the conditions, often fighting Education bureaucrats and politicians to achieve what was needed. He has an OAM for services to Education, regularly runs marathons, and works hard on a number of other sporting and community service bodies. A lesson to show that all things are possible with determination and persistence.
Saturday 24th October 
Breakfast in the dining room was made more interesting with a vigorous discussion happening  between two delegates with opposing views on the PSA screening debate. 
The day's program of events were:
  • Chapter business took up the morning session until morning tea time. Discussions about changes tochapter organisational rules and election of new chapter committee members. The structure and relationships between all of the PCFA committees was explained.
  • A petition being organised by the Mel-Marsh Support Group to lobby for a PSA screening program was discussed. There are differing opinions, some quite strong. This petition was OK'd but only as a private citizen petition, not under the banner of a PCFA Victorian Chapter petition. 
  • Bill Weidner, Grieving Counsellor from Ballarat Hospital Palliative care presented information on the grieving and bereavement processes that people go through. He recommended a Red Cross publication "Coping with a major personal crisis" that ought be in every household in the country. It is available from the Red Cross website
  • Dr Miranda Zhilaga from the PCFA research grants committee outlined how PCFA funds are allocated to research projects, the criteria for winning a research grant, and spoke about an exciting breakthrough by PCFA funded researchers in Australia announced this month. They have succeeded in identifying where in the DNA sequence there are genes that predispose a man to get prostate cancer. 
  • Peter Gebert, Chairman of the PCFA Support and Advocacy committee reported on the committee's program in the past 12 months and future directions. Data from a survey of all Support groups was presented as a guide to the future priorities of the Victorian Chapter. The priorities were increasing membership in the groups, Provision of medical awareness, promoting the existence of support groups, providing speakers at meetings, and facilitator training.
  • Dr Pam Williams, from the Breast Cancer Action Group presented her views on the reasons why womens breast cancer groups are more organised and effective than men's health groups. She provided advice on becoming more active.
We got back to Albury having met many new people, and learning quite a few strategies for improving the operation of the AWPCSN.
  1. Jim Reid in Shepparton is our most valuable PCFA contact. He is on the Victorian Chapter Committee and its his responsibility to do what he can to help. We can discuss reimbursement of the group expenses with him instead of the current situation where we have been approaching several different people in PCFA. 
  2. A "Round Robin" activity at meetings is worth trying as most other groups find this a very effective way of ensuring support to members. A round Robin is where each person in the group takes it in turns to tell their story as it applies at the time. How they're travelling, issues facing them etc. Totally optional.
  3. Survey group members on what they want, what works for them, what we are doing well and not so well to make the group's activities more relevant.
Glenn Rose

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