Childhood Cancer Advocate Recognised in Australia Day Honours
Passionate childhood cancer advocate, Dr Joe Collins AM, has been appointed as a Member (AM) of the Order of Australia in the 2020 Australia Day Honours, recognised for significant service to the community through charitable initiatives, exceptional leadership and advocacy in childhood cancer.
In 1976, on the day of his first wedding anniversary, Dr Collins was diagnosed with a rare and high-risk form of Lymphoma. He was placed on a clinical trial at Prince Alfred Hospital becoming the sole survivor 6 months later. In 1998 Joe suffered and survived a secondary bowel cancer which resulted from heavy doses of radiotherapy he had received years before. None of these challenges thwarted Joe’s passion, enthusiasm and love of life.
“During my treatments I saw first-hand the need to improve standards of care and the way research was being done. I also saw incredible courage and the hope of children diagnosed with cancer. I realised then that every child should have a chance at a healthy life. I also knew I had to do my bit and do something about it,” Dr Collins said.
Since then Dr Collins has devoted much of his time, both professionally and privately, to making a positive impact on clinical standards and survival rates for childhood cancers.
In 1997 Dr Collins became involved with the Children’s Cancer Institute of Australia (CCIA), joining the Board in 2002 and rising to Executive Chairman in 2005, a role he held up until 2010. Under Dr Collins’ leadership CCIA attracted significant state, federal and philanthropic support and with David Gonski, negotiated a joint development venture with the University of New South Wales which led to the construction of the $105 million world class research facility; The Lowy Cancer Research Centre.
In 2005, the Steven Walter Children’s Cancer Foundation, based in Kirrawee, appointed Dr Collins as Chairman. SWCCF is an organisation dedicated to funding research and clinical services to improve survival rates and quality of life for children diagnosed with cancer.
To date through a range of community fundraising initiatives, SWCCF has raised in excess of $9 million for childhood cancer research which include funding five research fellowships and more than twelve cutting-edge research programs which have generated more than $40 million in additional research grants.
In 2010 Dr Collins set up and became the Founding Chairman of the Australian Lions Childhood Cancer Research Foundation a volunteer organisation dedicated to helping cure childhood cancers. Since 2010 the Foundation has contributed over $10 million for childhood cancer, funding more than 7 major projects. Joe is a proud member of Oatley Lions Club and has served for many years on various national Lions committees.
“Australian Lions Childhood Cancer Research Foundation has become one of the most successful Lions Foundations in Australia and it contributed significantly to Childhood Cancer becoming one of the 5 global humanitarian causes adopted by Lions Clubs International. Joe’s vision, leadership and guidance have been instrumental in the success Lions is having on improving the survival rates and treatment of children with cancer,” says Rob Oerlemans, Executive Officer at Lions Australia.
In collaboration with the Macquarie Graduate School of Management, Dr Collins initiated and completed a project titled “Donors without Borders: Rethinking how Australians fund childhood cancer research” in 2015. This was the catalyst for establishing the Lions Kids Cancer Genome Project (Genome Power). Joe Chairs this ground-breaking program after securing $4 million in grant support from The Lions Club International Foundation based in Chicago and the Australian Lions Childhood Cancer Research Foundation.
Genome Power is now being rolled out through the Zero Childhood Cancer Program to children’s hospitals across the country. If successful in Australia, this could provide a mechanism for many other countries to join the fight to eradicate deaths from childhood cancer.
In 2019, Joe joined a Federal Government Taskforce of 25 leading research, clinical and other professionals from around Australia to develop an action plan to eradicate blood cancers by 2035. This work will be completed in mid-2020.
“As well as Joe’s many professional accolades, I believe one of the things that he can be most proud of is the positive impact he has had on the lives and futures of literally hundreds of children with cancer and their families,” said Sue Walter AM, CEO of Steven Walter Children’s Cancer Foundation.
“Joe has not only achieved his goal of giving children a chance at a healthy life, but has also been a catalyst for positive change and development in cancer research and many other areas of the community where he has given his time. His commitment to forging sustainable philanthropic partnerships is unquestionably altruistic but it has also empowered others, like our brilliant research scientists and doctors, to undertake their own life-saving research,” Sue Walter said.
In addition to his significant impact in the cancer space, Dr Collins’ career features wide ranging leadership roles in government, commercial and education sectors.
“We would all like to congratulate Joe on receiving this well-deserved honour. In addition to his considerable charitable pursuits Joe has worked with Findex clients for over 7 years and now plays an important role as the Client Advocate on our Investment Committee. Joe also helped us some years back when we designed and established a regionally relevant, nationally impactful and globally scalable Findex Community Fund which has been a wonderful success right across Australia and New Zealand helping people in the fields of Health, Education and Entrepreneurship” said Spiro Paule, Managing Director, Findex.
Joe brings the same passion, enthusiasm and love of life to his work at Findex as he does to his charitable pursuits and has not let health challenges of the past hold him back.
“Joe is wonderful humanitarian, generous with his time and willing to share his unique perspective and wisdom which has been forged by his own cancers as well as extensive leadership and management experience. After gaining his Doctorate of Business Leadership in 2011 Joe has continued to help out and examine the work of students currently doing their doctoral studies. Joe is a rare altruist who gets things done. He is one of only 4 people our organisation has awarded an Honorary Life Fellow to in the past 40 years” said Prof Ramzi Fayed from the Australian Graduate School of Leadership.