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Easing financial and legal worries for improved health & wellbeing

Unexpected legal and financial challenges are often a cause of distress after a cancer diagnosis. Cancer Council’s Pro Bono Program aims to relieve these anxieties and put the focus back on recovery.

Pro Bono Program: Relieving financial and legal stress in times of need

The crippling financial burden of a cancer diagnosis   

Without Cancer Council’s Pro Bono Program, cancer survivor Carol Kemister says that she probably would have lost her house. Carol and her husband, Marty, were diagnosed with cancer in the same year, which left them unable to work and placed tremendous financial stress on their family. 

The financial side of things was a problem, worrying about whether we can pay bills and all that sort of stuff."

 Marty  Kemister
Cancer survivor

A cancer diagnosis can often mean a reduction in work hours and loss of income – on top of expensive out of pocket treatment costs.  

Instead of being able to focus solely on their recovery, Carol and Marty were concerned with cutting household costs to pay for their daily expenses, credit cards, mortgage, and cancer treatments.  

At the time, we were refusing to get gas deliveries for our heater and our cooking stove because we just couldn't afford the gas."

Carol Kemister
Cancer survivor  

Treatment can have many physical effects that make everyday tasks difficult and adding the extra stress of sorting finances and negotiating complex legal documents can be crippling. 

Helping to ease financial and legal stress 

Thankfully, Cancer Council’s Pro Bono Program helped reduce some of Marty and Carol’s financial burden.  

The program connects people affected by cancer with volunteer professionals in the community who provide financial, legal, workplace and small business issues assistance and advice.  

In 2018, Cancer Council's Pro Bono Network of Professionals provided almost $5.2 million of commercial assistance. This support assisted over 1,500 people affected by cancer.  

Marty and Carol met with professional financial advisor Tony, to discuss the financial impact of their cancer diagnoses.  

Tony came to visit us and sat around our dining room table and asked us what would help us at that time."

Carol Kemister
Cancer survivor  

Tony, who has been generously sharing his expertise with community members in need for the past 12 years, set out to uncover ways to steer the couple into a better financial position. 

A hold was put on the couple’s mortgage for six months and he was also able to get some of their superannuation released. Marty described it as a “weight off their shoulders.” 

…it means we can have the dignity of paying our own bills and knowing we’ve got the money there to use while we’re still on this journey."

Carol Kemister
Cancer survivor  

Research shows improved emotional wellbeing 

The positive impact of the Pro Bono Program isn’t simply anecdotal but has been confirmed by research conducted by Cancer Council NSW. The practical, psychological and emotional support received by program participants has resulted in improved emotional wellbeing. 

After receiving assistance through the Pro Bono Program, people reported significantly lower levels of stress and worry about their legal and financial problems and felt less burdened financially.  

They also reported being significantly more informed about the issues affecting them; having a better understanding of available options; and ultimately, feeling more in control.  

Cancer Council's pro bono program

An invaluable service powered by community 

Michelle Smerdon, National Legal & Financial Support Service Manager at Cancer Council NSW, describes how it’s the blindside of the significant financial impact of a cancer diagnosis which often causes emotional distress.  

This is what makes Cancer Council’s Pro Bono Program, and all of the professionals who donate their time, invaluable.  

Over the last nine years, we’ve had over 21,000 people affected by cancer referred to the program."

Michelle Smerdon
Legal & Financial Support Service Manager at Cancer Council NSW 

Marty and Carol were so grateful to have access to Cancer Council’s Pro Bono Program and say they would have ended up in a much worse condition without it.  

It's just one of the best things that somebody could do for another person and at a time when you need it the most."

Carol Kemister
Cancer survivor  
Cancer Council's pro bono program

The Pro Bono Program is means-tested and is free for people who cannot afford to pay for it. Cancer Council asks a series of financial questions to determine eligibility.  

Availability of our services varies around the country. To find out about support services for people affected by cancer in your local area, get in touch with your local Cancer Council or call 13 11 20. 

Looking Ahead

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