Canberra cancer support volunteer nominated for Australian of the Year

When Yvonne Cuschieri​ first decided to fundraise to help children with cancer, she had no idea that three decades on, her volunteer work would be helping hundreds more.

Ms Cuschieri’s inspiration for her volunteer work came after she heard about children in the Canberra region wanting to go to a CanTeen camp and she began fundraising which eventually allowed 13 children to attend.

One year later, she held her first-ever cancer support group at her home in Karabar.

Little did she know, that support group would grow to become one of the region’s most well-known and respected charities – the ACT Eden Monaro Cancer Support Group.

Currently there are about 900 cancer sufferers and their families seeking support from the group, which provides not only emotional, but financial support to its members.

“I think it would have been a bit different if I had of known it would grow like this. But I’d love every area in Australia to have a group like this one,” she said.

“Everyone has somehow been touched by cancer, and if you haven’t yet you will be, it’s becoming all too common.”

Ms Cuschieri is now in the running to become Australian of the Year after being nominated by ACT Eden Monaro Support Group chief executive Melissa Gardiner.

“It takes a special woman to start something like this and stick around for 30 years,” Ms Gardiner said.

Ms Cuschieri is known for putting others first regardless of her own needs.

But her desire to help others affected by cancer also comes from a deeply personal space.

After fighting her own battle with lung cancer, she lost her son to a brain tumour in 2013.

“I don’t talk a lot about my cancer, I’m very, very lucky. What we’re seeing more of coming into the centre is brain tumours, and that’s what I lost my son to 18 months ago,” she said.

Modesty is evident when speaking to Ms Cuschieri, who is very humbled by her nomination,

“I think there are plenty of other people like the young men and women who go to war who deserve much more recognition than me,” she said.

“I couldn’t have done it without the support of the people. Credit must go to not only all our major sponsors, but our volunteers and even the people who come and buy a raffle ticket on the street. It all helps.”