Page 4131 - Week 11 - Thursday, 21 September 2017

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Ms Connie Johnson OAM

MS FITZHARRIS (Yerrabi—Minister for Health, Minister for Transport and City Services and Minister for Higher Education, Training and Research) (4.30): I rise today to pay tribute to another Canberran lost recently to cancer, another Canberran who, as many of us know, was honoured to receive an award from the Governor-General about a week, I think, before Karl Alderson received his. I am talking, of course, about Connie Johnson, a long-time cancer advocate and very important Canberran who many of us felt they knew personally.

Connie dedicated her last years to raising funds for cancer research and, most importantly, educating children and adults alike on the importance of early detection. Many Canberrans and people around the country, many part of her village, were saddened to hear of Connie’s passing recently. I would like to pass on, as many have done, my sincere condolences to Connie’s family, and particularly to her two young sons. Connie was an incredible woman whose work in our community will not be forgotten. It was indeed heartwarming to see her life and work honoured by the Governor-General. I also acknowledge the staff at Clare Holland House, who every day work with families in very difficult conditions and who cared for Connie in her final weeks.

Through Love Your Sister, Connie and her brother, Sam, ran many campaigns to raise funds and promote awareness. Perhaps the best known for Canberrans was the big heart project. After the very simple exercise that Sam did, unicycling around all of Australia, Connie then built on that to embark on a mission to collect enough 5c coins to run the breadth of Australia. On a chilly Canberra day, on 10 May this year, Connie and her thousands of supporters gathered at the Lyneham netball courts throughout the day, throwing buckets and buckets of 5c coins into the shape of a heart. Between those donations and online donations, the big heart project raised $2.5 million for cancer research alone. As of Wednesday morning last week, the Love Your Sister website had raised just over $7 million. Originally run from Connie’s Kaleen home, Love Your Sister is without a doubt an incredible and inspirational success.

We pay tribute to Connie and her brother in particular, and their supporters, for everything they have done to promote cancer awareness in Australia. In particular, Connie’s and Sam’s enthusiasm in talking to thousands of schoolchildren, encouraging them to ask their mothers and fathers to check their health, was an original and effective method to raise awareness.

I also acknowledge the incredible work of many other cancer advocates here in the ACT. I have spoken previously of Sarah McGoram, the Wills family and the Anthoney family. The week before Connie’s passing it was my privilege to host the Childhood Cancer Awareness Month morning tea at the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children. Every year, September is International Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. This was a wonderful opportunity and what I hope will become an annual event.

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