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National SunSmart Schools Program

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation damage accumulated during childhood and adolescence is strongly associated with an increased risk of skin cancer later in life. Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, with two in three Australians developing some form of skin cancer before age 70.

Skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers.

Students are in school when daily ultraviolet (UV) radiation levels are at their peak, meaning schools are uniquely placed to educate about sun protection behaviour, minimise UVR exposure and ultimately reduce a student's lifetime risk of skin cancer. All Australian primary schools are encouraged to join the nationally recognised SunSmart Schools program.

SunSmart membership assists schools meet their duty of care requirements in sun protection and occupational health and safety (OHS) obligations in UV risk reduction for staff. 

Cancer Council launched the National SunSmart Schools program in 1998. Today it is offered to all primary schools nationwide, and is also offered to K-10/12, secondary and special schools in some states.

In order to receive SunSmart status and recognition, primary schools must:

  • have a written sun protection policy meeting minimum standards relating to sun protective behaviours, environment and curriculum
  • reschedule/minimise outdoor activities in direct sun during peak UV periods of the year
  • teach, model and reinforce positive sun protection behaviour
  • agree to complete regular policy reviews with the relevant state or territory Cancer Council to ensure their policy meets current guidelines and recommendations.

Overexposure to UV during adulthood also increases the risk of skin cancer. It is equally important that all teachers and staff are aware of their own occupational UV exposure and protect themselves by using a combination of sun protection measures (hats, covering clothing, sunscreen, shade and sunglasses) when UV levels reach 3 and above. 

National SunSmart Early Childhood Program

Early childhood education and care services across Australia can also be recognised for their sun protection behaviours by joining the SunSmart Early Childhood Program.

SunSmart membership assists services to meet their regulatory and duty of care requirements in sun protection and OHS obligations in UV risk reduction for staff.

Secondary schools and colleges

Currently the National SunSmart Schools program is only offered to secondary schools in Western Australia and Victoria. However, all Australian secondary school communities are encouraged to develop and implement a sun protection policy or plan that aims to reduce UV exposure and minimise the long-term risk of skin damage among students and workers.

Outside School Hours Care/Vacation Care Services

All OSHC services are required to have a sun protection policy and protect children and staff from UV exposure. SunSmart has various resources to help support sun protection at your service with some states offering SunSmart membership for OSHC. Please contact your local state/territory Cancer Council.

Your state or territory Cancer Council may be able to assist your school or service with policy development, recommendations and resources etc. To contact your state or territory Cancer Council call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or click on the map below.

Find out more about SunSmart in schools near you

To learn more about the program in your state or territory, click on the map