Brisbane's Rally for Research

20 Apr 2011

The Brisbane Rally for Research was held in King George Square on Tuesday the 19th of April, and although rained out, it didn't prevent people turning up in the masses.

Hundreds of protesters converged to voice their concerns over the federal government's proposed $400million cut to the Australian medical research budget. High profile speakers included federal shadow health minster Peter Dutton, rugby league legend Wally Lewis and Queensland Senator-Elect, Larissa Waters.

But the most inspiring speakers of them all were the cancer survivors themselves: Danielle Tindle, a former Hodgkin's Lymphoma patient, now working for Brisbane's Royal Children's Hospital, appealed to the crowd that she was the very reason medical research in Australia needs to continue to be funded by the government.

With less than a five percent chance of survival and a tumour the size of a football in her chest, Danielle had been handed a death sentence. But eight years later, and due to the cutting-edge research techniques completed by Brisbane scientists, she is completely cancer-free.

"Was my survival a miracle? Or the result of cutting-edge medical research?" she said.

"Any budget cuts would ultimately cost the federal government a lot more than they bargained for. It would cost human life." The response from ralliers rang loud and clear.

Two bus loads of UQDI supporters attended the event, and wore mostly orange and rallied with handmade signs with the hundreds of other like protesters, angered by the federal government's proposal.

Former Queenslander of the Year, Geoff Hill of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, said Australian's should not rely on other countries to make medical breakthroughs.

"We shouldn't think about research as being done somewhere else," Professor Hill said and referred to Professor Ian Frazer's cervical cancer vaccine and Professor Graeme Clark pioneering the first cochlear implant as exemplary Australian achievements in medical research.

Professor Hill sent a warning to the federal government, saying Australia risks ending up with a second-class health system where people will have to look overseas for treatments.

The rally was the last of a week-long event across Australia, with other protests being held in Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne and Darwin. The rallies were sparked by a leaked cabinet report that up to $400million may be cut to the National Health and Medical Research Council when the budget is declared in May.

Queensland University of Technology's Professor Nicholas Graves, from the Institute for Health and Biomedical Innovation, said such a significant cut could potentially cost the Australian economy $129billion by early 2020.

"Cutting research funding might cost the Australian economy in higher health expenditures and worse patient outcomes. It would be a shame to reduce investment in something we do so well. It also contradicts the policy ambitions of the current government which are to develop a knowledge-based economy."