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The petition was referred to the Standing Committee on Community Affairs the following day, with a full inquiry beginning in May 2006. The committee received 79 submissions from interested organisations, medical professionals and cancer sufferers, and held a number of public hearings.

The committee’s October 2006 report, Breaking the silence: a national voice for gynaecological cancers, recommended the establishment of the National Centre for Gynaecological Cancers and the development of a national vaccination program and education campaign.

In February 2007 the government tabled its official response adopting the committee’s 34 recommendations. In response, Allison remarked:

'This response sends an important message to people that signing a petition can make a difference. It has often bothered me, in fact, that so many petitions do not go on to be investigated and looked at in detail, but this one did and I thank the Senate … and the committee itself for accepting that petition and for taking action on it.'

Senator Jeannie Ferris, 2006. DPS Auspic

The inquiry into gynaecological cancers held special significance for committee member Jeannie Ferris, a Liberal senator who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2005.

Alongside senators Lyn Allison (Australian Democrats) and Claire Moore (Labor), Ferris played a key role in establishing the cross-party inquiry, which she said was ‘one of the highlights of my time in the Senate’.

After the government adopted the committee’s unanimous recommendations in February 2007, Ferris said their success ‘shows that when there is an important issue, Senate women rise to the occasion’.

Tragically, Ferris died from complications caused by ovarian cancer on 2 April 2007. In a fitting—yet unplanned—tribute, a cervical cancer vaccine was rolled out in her home state of South Australia the day after her death.

Poster—‘HPV Vaccine’, Australian Government Department of Health

HPV (human papillomavirus) is a common, contagious virus that can cause cancers and diseases in both men and women.

This poster is about preventing HPV cancers and diseases by vaccination through school-based vaccination programs.

Find out more

Tabling speeches for the Breaking the silence: a national voice for gynaecological cancers report, 19 October 2006

Speeches following the tabling of the government response to the Breaking the silence: a national voice for gynaecological cancers report, 27 February 2007

Publication (PDF)