20 years of supporting women with cancer 

In 2023, Counterpart celebrated our 20-year history of connecting, supporting and informing Victorian women with cancer to live well. 

2023 | 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003

Current and former volunteers at our 20 year celebration, May 2023.


In May, we held an event to celebrate 20 years of Counterpart supporting women with cancer, with over 80 people attending, including current and former staff and volunteers, funders and supporters, health professionals and women who have used our service.

  • With the support of the Victorian Government, we also return to the regions, with 4 wellbeing days in Bendigo, Inverloch, Warrnambool, Nicholson (East Gippsland) and Shepparton.
Long-term volunteers Nikki, Khim and Rhonda cut the cake at our 20 year celebration.

20 year celebration, May 23.
Wellbeing Day in Nicholson.
Filming women's cancer stories.

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Celebrating National Volunteer Week in May 2022.

Counterpart Year in Review 2021–2022 cover with a row of women linking arms


In July, we open our doors to all women with cancer, so they can access peer support no matter what cancer type they have been diagnosed with.

  • Our Bridge of Support program returns after hospitals ease Covid restrictions. 
  • We present on our peer support program at the Victorian Cancer Survivorship Conference in March 2022.

Our new Resource Centre.
At a BCNA forum in May 22.
Party to farewell Fiona, December 22.

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Volunteers get a rare chance to connect with each other between Covid lock-downs at a National Volunteer Week (NVW) morning tea, May 2021.


Our new-look website is launched, making it easier to navigate our site and access information.

  • Our online wellbeing day for women living with metastatic cancer is a success.
  • Master of Social Work students from the University of Melbourne complete a complex exploratory study of the processes which support our peer support program.
  • We are involved in the extension to the My Care Plan for women with endometrial cancer and development of a risk profile tool for women with breast and ovarian cancer.

NVW celebration, May 21.
NWV celebration, May 21.
Volunteering expo in Booroondara.

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The Counterpart team meeting during the early days of the pandemic.


When the pandemic arrived, we moved all our events online, and operated our Resource Centre remotely, thanks to the dedication of our Peer Support Volunteers who made calls from their homes.

  • In February, we hold a wellbeing day for women with cancer, in partnership with the Mercy Hospital for Women.
  • We run a pilot Stepping into Wellness 6-week exercise program online.
  • We send more frequent ‘iso’ emails to women on our mailing list to offer additional support during lock-downs.

Wellbeing day at the Mercy, Feb 20.
Radiotherapy webinar, March 20.
Testing out MC Teams, April 20.

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Staff and volunteers celebrate the LUCRF Super Community Program-funded Telehealth Project with a morning tea at Women's Health Victoria's Bourke Street office, October 2019.


We reach more women across the state thanks to 2 projects funded by the Victorian Government. The Rural and Regional Project, and the Area-based Project (working in southern and eastern Melbourne) helped us to work closely with health
professionals, increase awareness of Counterpart, and run more events.

  • Bridge of Support expands to see women with gynaecological cancers at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.
  • The Telehealth Project was funded by LUCRF Super Community Program and expanded our capacity to support women across Victoria.
  • We partnered with regional health professionals to run hosted webinar screenings.
  • Women's Health Victoria celebrates its 25th anniversary by honoring 25 Champions for Women, including 4 women who played a huge part in our service: Rhonda Cole, Judy Sammut OAM, Belinda Astl and Di Missen.

BOS at Peter Mac, May 19.
Stepping into Wellness session.
Champions for Women.

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Current and former volunteers at a celebration of 15 years of our service, April 18.

The Hon Gabrielle Williams MP launches the new Counterpart Navigator app, April 18.


At a celebratory event in April, we celebrate 15 years of our service, and Hon Gabrielle Williams MP, then Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Parliamentary Secretary for Carers and Volunteers, launches the Counterpart Navigator app, featuring 6 new gynaecological cancer Navigators.

  • We reach 30,000 contacts with women affected by cancer.
  • Heather Beanland, former volunteer and BreaCan founder, receives a Counterpart Champion Award.
  • We run six Stepping into Wellness programs in outer metropolitan Melbourne, with the support of Pink Affair.

Warrnambool webinar screening.
Counterpart event in Ringwood.
2018 Survivorship Conference.

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Counterpart volunteers at the launch of Counterpart – women supporting women with cancer, in May 17.


Our new name Counterpart – women
supporting women with cancer is launched by Dale Fisher, CEO of Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in May.

Dale Fisher launches our new name and brand, May 17.
  • Thanks to Pink Affair we help women get back into exercise with six Stepping into Wellness programs; in Cranbourne, Fawkner, Heidelberg, Noble Park, Sunshine and Sydenham.
  • We run our first outreach Making Connections session, with Eastern Health, in Croydon.
  • We have poster presentations on Bridge of Support at Western Health at the 3rd Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer Survivorship Conference in Adelaide, and the Victorian Integrated Cancer Services Conference in Melbourne.
  • The Besen Family Foundation donate funds to support outreach and increasing access for women from diverse backgrounds.

BOS at Sunshine Hospital.
New Peer Support Volunteers.
Stepping into Wellness, Noble Park.

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Bridge of Support Western Health launch at Sunshine Hospital, May 2016. Staff and volunteers with Natalie Suleyman MP; Meredith Carter, Chair, Women’s Health Victoria Board; and Charlie Donnelly, CEO, LUCRF Super.

BreaCan volunteers assisting at our end of year morning tea, December 16.


Bridge of Support Western Health is launched at Sunshine Hospital, with the support of LUCRF Super Community Program.

  • BreaCan joins the steering committee for a Melbourne University metastatic breast cancer project.
  • Another group of volunteers celebrate 10 years of service at a morning tea in National Volunteer Week.
  • Lee Kennedy, BreaCan Manager, joins the planning committee of the Flinders Survivorship Conference 2017.
  • We present on the gaps in cancer information and support at the 19th Annual Congress of Cancer Nurses Society of Australia in Cairns.

National Volunteer Week.
Event with Ovarian Cancer Australia.
Feel Good photoshoot.

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Stepping into Wellness program in Sunshine, May 15.


Pink Affair funds Stepping into Wellness, beginning a partnership that assists women getting back into exercise after cancer in suburban Melbourne.

  • LUCRF Super Community Program funds a 2-year pilot program to bring Bridge of Support to Western Health.
  • We present at survivorship and cancer conferences in Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane.
  • An independent evaluation is carried out by researchers from Deakin University and provides recommendations to guide the service into the future.
Sashiko session at BreaCan, Jun 15.

Bras and breastforms session.
New Peer Support Volunteers.
BreaCan forum in Colac.

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Staff and volunteers with guest Ms Elizabeth Miller MP, who presented certificates to those volunteers celebrating 10 years of service, at our National Volunteer Week morning tea, May 14.

Peer Support Volunteer Helen at a Breast Cancer Network Australia forum for the Greek community forum, December 14.


Premier Hon Denis Napthine launches our Connecting and Supporting Rural and Regional Women with Cancer project in Geelong, funded by the Victorian Government. Our project partners are Barwon South West Regional and Grampians Integrated Cancer Services.

  • We hold our first webinar, a Making Connections session on managing cancer pain. Webinars allow women who can’t make it into the city to participate online.
  • We offer more outreach sessions in response to feedback from women who want to be able to attend events in their local area.
  • We organise education and wellbeing sessions as part of Breast Cancer Network Australia’s Pink Moves programs in Ascot Vale and Northcote.

Rural project launch in Geelong.
Presentation by Prof Jonathan Cebon.
Volunteer Reference Group meeting.

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Counterpart volunteers Nikki and Chris unveil the BreaCan anniversary quilt at the 10 year celebration, October 13.


Our service celebrates ten years of connecting, supporting and informing women with breast or a gynaecological cancer to live well.

Launch of the BreaCan Navigator.
  • At a morning tea in October:
    • The Hon David Davis MP launches the BreaCan Navigator.
    • The Hon Mary Wooldridge MP unveils a 10 year anniversary quilt made by BreaCan volunteers, women who used the service and supporters.
    • We recognise the incredible contributions of Judy Sammut by awarding her the inaugural BreaCan Champion award.
  • 8 volunteers celebrate a decade of volunteering.
  • BreaCan staff co-author a poster presentation, with Prof Bruce Mann and others, on survivorship for the 2013 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.
  • We hold a forum for Vietnamese-speaking women who have experienced cancer, providing information, tai chi and a chance to connect with our Peer Support Volunteers through interpreters.

New Peer Support Volunteers.
Guests at our film night fundraiser.
Volunteers at our 10 year celebration.

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Gippsland women who travelled to Sale to attend BreaCan’s regional forum, pictured with Catherine Enter, McGrath Breast Care Nurse.

BreaCan at a BCNA forum
for women with advanced cancer.


Almost 100 women who have had breast or a gynaecological cancer connect with each other at our regional forums in Sale and Geelong.

  • BreaCan partners with the Breast Service of the Royal Melbourne and Royal Women’s Hospitals, Western Health and the Inner North West Melbourne Medicare Local to develop a survivorship program for women completing treatment for early breast cancer. This project is funded through the Victorian Cancer Survivorship Program phase II.
  • Our volunteer team grows to over 50 women.
  • Cancer Australia funds a second project to improve support for CALD women, building on the findings of the 2010 project.

Women affected by cancer attend a regional forum in Geelong.
BreaCan and Ovarian Cancer Australia info session.
Creative ways of acknowledging grief Making Connections session.

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National Volunteering Week celebration, May 11. L-R: Di Missen, BreaCan Manager; Annabelle Pollard, Chair, BreaCan Advisory Group; Hon Mary Wooldridge; Louise Johnson, Chair, Women’s Health Victoria Council; Rita Butera, CEO, Women’s Health Victoria.


The Hon Mary Wooldridge, Minister for Mental Health, Women’s Affairs and Community Services joins our morning tea celebrating National Volunteer Week and the 10th anniversary of International Year of the Volunteer.

  • Our partnership with Ovarian Cancer Australia improves access to support and information for women diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer.
  • We present a poster on Bridge of Support at the 13th National Breast Care Nurse Conference.
  • We hold two information days in the western suburbs of Melbourne for women from diverse backgrounds who have experienced breast or a gynaecological cancer.
  • We partner with the Mercy Hospital to run a forum for women with a gynaecological cancer in Heidelberg.
Founding staff members Manager Di Missen and Resource Centre Coordinator Helen Shepherd, at a farewell for Di in 2011.

New Peer Support Volunteers.
Information session with Jane Fletcher, psychologist.
Morning tea after a Feel Good exercise session.

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Bridge of Support Peer Support Volunteers with BreaCan and Royal Melbourne Hospital staff. Front from left: Pauline, Pam, Ellen, Helen Shepherd (BreaCan). Back from left: Trudy Habner (RMH), Trish Minihan (RMH), Janine, Frederika, Mary, Heather, Di Missen (BreaCan).

The Hon Daniel Andrews MP, Minister for Health, launches Bridge of Support.


Bridge of Support at the Breast Service of Royal Melbourne and Royal Women’s Hospitals brings peer support to women during their cancer treatment. Our new program is launched by the Hon Daniel Andrews MP, Minister for Health.

  • Stepping into Exercise: the experiences of women living with cancer is presented to the 8th Australasian Lymphology Association Conference.
  • Cancer Australia fund a two-year project to understand and improve support and information for women from a CALD background, in partnership with Western Health.
  • We collaborate with The Women’s to deliver a seven-week program for women experiencing early menopause after cancer.

BreaCan at BCNA's Field of Women.
Music for the mind, body and soul workshop.
Oaks Day fundraiser for BreaCan.

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The Circle of Women represents the strength and resilience women gain through their connection with each other. The statue still sits in the Counterpart Resource Centre today.


Steps for Fun and Fitness, a five-week exercise program for women post-cancer treatment is delivered at Bulleen, Mitcham and Epping. This is part of a Cancer Australia-funded project we undertook with the North Eastern Melbourne Integrated Cancer Service (NEMICS).

  • Our Recipes for Living forums connect women in Craigieburn and Frankston.
  • We hold a Young Women Talking forum, for women under 45, funded by the The Young Ones, a breast cancer support group.
  • We present papers on peer support and the BreaCan model at the 15th International Reach to Recovery Conference in Brisbane and the 11th National Breast Care Nurses Conference in Melbourne.
Women chat in the BreaCan Resource Centre.

Steps for Fun and Fitness program in Bulleen.
Recipes for Living forum in Craigieburn.
At the Reach to Recovery conference.

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Music therapy program participants, September 08.

Volunteer end of year celebration, December 08.


BreaCan partners with the Royal Melbourne Hospital, the Royal Women’s Hospital and Western Health to run a music therapy program. Women meet over 5 weeks to sing together, and write and record a CD called Our Voices Our Songs.

  • The first Peer Support Volunteers with a gynaecological cancer diagnosis are recruited and trained.
  • We begin a two-year project 'Reaching out to women with gynaecological cancers: Innovations in supportive care', in partnership with North Eastern Melbourne Integrated Cancer Service, funded by Cancer Australia.
  • An Advisory Group of health professionals, volunteers and women who have experienced cancer forms to inform the development of the service.

Our Voices, Our Songs CD launch, October 08.
Here and Now advanced cancer program participants.
New intake of Peer Support Volunteers.

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Helen Shepherd, Janine, Di Missen, Rhonda and Nicole Wilton with Hon Daniel Andrews MP, Minister for Health, at the Victorian Public Health Care Awards.


BreaCan expands our successful model to support women who have experienced a gynaecological cancer.

  • Our service wins a Victorian Public Health Care Award for Innovation in Models of Care.
  • Free reflexology sessions are offered to women for the first time as evidence starts to show the positive impact of some complementary therapies on the wellbeing of women living with cancer.
  • We hold a forum in Gippsland, attracting 38 women from across the region.
Art therapy workshop in the BreaCan Resource Centre.

Training for the expansion to gynaecological cancers.
BreaCan staff and volunteers.
Maxine and Scharlaine walked the Kokoda Track,
fundraising for BreaCan.

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Volunteers at the launch of BreaCan’s new premises in the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre.

Mary M, Rita, Mary N and Joanne, who shared their stories of breast cancer in Young Women Talking, at the launch of the resource.


BreaCan moves into the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre. The new centre are launched by the Hon Mary Delahunty, Minister for Women’s Affairs.

  • Young Women Talking, a multimedia resource (book and DVD) for women diagnosed with breast cancer under 45, is released with the support of Cancer Council Victoria.
  • We now have 30 Peer Support Volunteers.
  • Our 1300 number is launched, allowing women in rural Victoria to ring us for the cost of a local call.

Peer Support Volunteer training.
Feel Good exercise session.
Breast cancer forum in Wangaratta.

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Music therapist Emma O’Brien (centre, wearing a mask) and the Chorus of Women perform.


Chorus of Women enables women who have experienced breast cancer to connect with each other and improve their wellbeing through music, culminating in dramatic and much-loved concert performances.

  • An evaluation of BreaCan shows a significant impact on the wellbeing of women living with breast cancer. As a result, we secure recurrent funding from the Victorian government.
  • Here and Now eight-week support programs bring women living with advanced cancer together to share and support each other.
  • The first Making Connections program provides information and wellbeing sessions to meet the unique needs of women living with advanced/metastatic cancer.
Volunteers browsing in the BreaCan resource library.

Advanced breast cancer project launch.
Here and Now program participants.
The BreaCan staff team in 2005.

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BreaCan volunteers celebrate the service’s second year at a lunch, Dec 04.

Peer Support Volunteers Heather and Rita speak at a Breast Care Nurses Conference.


Our volunteer team expands with a second intake of Peer Support Volunteers, which includes our first volunteer living with metastatic cancer.

  • We trial a model of support for women living with advanced cancer, thanks to funding from the Victorian Government.
  • We start building a library collection on a range of topics which offers free resources to women with cancer.
  • We participate in regional programs led by regional women’s health services to increase support for women in rural Victoria.

Art therapy workshop.
Breast forms and bras on display at BreaCan.
Pamphlets available in the BreaCan Resource Centre.

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Hon Bronwyn Pike MP, Minister for Health, launches BreaCan, Apr 03.


The Hon Bronwyn Pike, Minister for Health, launches BreaCan on 11 April 2003.

  • The first intake of Peer Support Volunteers finish their training and 12 volunteers begin supporting women in the Resource Centre three days per week.
  • The What’s On program commences offering 15 health and wellbeing sessions in the first year.
  • The Feel Good Gentle Exercise program starts, providing free, fortnightly exercise sessions for women following breast cancer treatment.
Sue Lockwood was the chair of the Breast Cancer Action Group. She lobbied for many years for a drop-in centre to be established in Melbourne and was integral to the establishment of BreaCan. She was inducted into the Victorian Honor Roll of Women in 2005, before her death in 2009.

Volunteers, staff and supporters at the launch.
Helen Shepherd, Belinda Astl and Di Missen at the launch.
Some of the guests at the launch.

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