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Cancer Council Australia commenced in 1961 as the Australian Cancer Society, when the six state Cancer Councils - which then varied in name and brand - agreed to establish a federal body to promote cancer control at the national level. Cancer organisations in the ACT and the Northern Territory were subsequently formed and signed on as members of the society.

While state and territory Cancer Councils continued to undertake most of the organisation's research, patient support and education programs, the federal body's primary role was to develop independent national cancer control policy - albeit on a comparatively modest scale.

In 1997 the eight jurisdictional members agreed to expand the Society, renaming it The Cancer Council Australia and appointing an expert Chief Executive Officer, Professor Alan Coates, to lead the organisation's push for improved national cancer control policy and build its profile. Specialist staff in communications, advocacy, business management, marketing and other professional roles were recruited to promote the organisation's mission.

Over the ensuing decade, member organisations uniformly adopted the name Cancer Council and together took on the daffodil, a global symbol of hope, as our common logo.

In May 2006, Professor Coates retired and was succeeded by Professor Ian Olver, then Director of the Royal Adelaide Hospital Cancer Centre, a former Chair of Cancer Council Australia's Medical and Scientific Committee and a bio-ethicist.

Tanya Buchanan was CEO from November 2020 to May 2024. She replaced Associate Professor Sanchia Aranda as CEO of Cancer Council Australia. Megan Varlow is Cancer Council Australia’s interim Chief Executive Officer, following the departure of Professor Tanya Buchanan.

Cancer Council Australia has a network of advisory committees, comprising professionals and consumers with expertise in public health, clinical medicine, epidemiology, research, education and patient support, who advise the organisation on its evidence-based policy priorities.

Cancer Council Australia is also allied with the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia, which provides advice on medical and scientific issues, and is a member of the Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance as well as global collaborations such as the International Union of Cancer Control Organisations.

Over its 59-year history, Cancer Council Australia has transformed from a small secretariat to a strong federal body that has become Australia's peak independent authority on cancer control.

Although independent of government, Cancer Council Australia is a source of non-partisan, evidence-based advice for government through a number of other forums.

Cancer Council Australia seeks to engage all Australians in our work to reduce the impact of cancer in Australia through advocacy, research, education and support.

Looking Ahead 

We won’t rest until we’ve dramatically reduced the significant impact cancer has on every member of our community.