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Our history

Our History

We were founded by people directly affected by ovarian cancer. Take a look at our history throughout the years. 

Ovarian Cancer Australia's History

Ovarian Cancer Australia was founded by people directly affected by ovarian cancer who wanted to raise awareness of the disease and support those who had been affected.

This group included Nicole Livingstone OAM and her sister Karen Livingstone AM who lost their mother and aunt to the disease; Simon Lee, whose wife Sheila had been the first Australian ovarian cancer campaigner prior to her death in 2001; actress and comedian Lynda Gibson who was diagnosed in 2000 and subsequently lost her battle in 2004.


OvCa Founded

OvCa – Founded in Sheila Lee’s memory to raise awareness of ovarian cancer. Started with small team of volunteers, distributing ribbons for awareness.

Online forum

First launch of an ovarian cancer online forum in Australia as a way for women to connect with each other.


Ovarian Cancer Australia

OvCa becomes Ovarian Cancer Australia.

Resilience Kit

The first edition of the Resilience Kit is produced providing valuable information to women facing ovarian cancer.


Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is launched to raise awareness of ovarian cancer in Australia.


Ovarian Cancer Study

Australia Ovarian Cancer Study commences collaborative research project to improve 
understanding of ovarian cancer and treatment

Parliamentary Breakfast

OCA hosts the first Ovarian Cancer Parliamentary Breakfast, with Chair Paula Benson directly putting the case for more funding for ovarian cancer research funding to our nation’s leaders

National Action Plan

In 2015, the first National Action Plan for Ovarian Cancer is launched.


Ovarian Cancer Symposium

OCA hosts first National Ovarian Cancer symposium for health professionals.

Traceback and Jenescreen

Traceback and Jenescreen are introduced identifying families who are at risk of 
ovarian cancer.

Clinical Quality Registry

Ovarian Cancer Clinical Quality registry commences in collaboration with with Monash University.


Younger Women's Network

The Younger Women’s network is established, bringing together younger women facing 
ovarian cancer

Medicines advocacy

OCA advocates for approval of drug treatment for newly diagnosed advanced ovarian cancer patients.

Teal Support Program

The Teal Support program commences – a regular outreach program for women with ovarian cancer, providing support for over 1000 women up to September 2023

Advocacy and research funding

As a result of our advocacy, the Government announces $20M investment into ovarian cancer research through the Medical Research Future Funds to help fund projects detailed in the National Action Plan.


2020-2025 NAP

The Ovarian Cancer sector unites to launch the National Action Plan (2020–2025),
targeted to reduce the incidence, increase the survival rate and improve the quality 
of life of people diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Australia.

PARP inhibitor expansion

OCA welcomes expanded listing of PARP inhibitors on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Male Partners Program

Male Partners Program is launched to provide men with help in supporting their loved ones.

Input into health policy initiatives

OCA is invited to provide input into two important health policy initiatives–the Ministerial Roundtable for the Australian Cancer Plan and the House of Representatives Inquiry into the Approval Processes for New Drugs and Novel Medical Devices.

Brisbane Support Group

Brisbane support group is launched.

2021 Symposium

OCA hosts third national ovarian cancer symposium for health professionals – attended by leading Australian and international researchers, clinicians and industry representatives.

Sheila Lee

Ovarian Cancer Australia owes enormous gratitude to Sheila Lee – the first ovarian cancer advocate in Australia who campaigned tirelessly throughout her own illness to increase the community’s awareness of ovarian cancer. Sheila’s vision and commitment inspired the creation of our organisation.

Sheila's Story

Sheila was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in February 1999 at the age of 54 years. Like many other women then and now, Sheila’s cancer was already at an advanced stage at diagnosis.

Sheila was appalled by the lack of awareness about the disease in the community, at the very poor outcomes experienced by women, by the lack of profile compared with other cancers and by the lack of research focussed on reducing the impact of ovarian cancer.

Sheila and her husband Simon Lee started speaking out – Sheila spoke about her experience, they developed the OvCa ovarian cancer awareness website which provided information about the disease and its symptoms, and put in place a plan of action for Australia’s first ovarian cancer rally.

This rally was held in the Fitzroy Gardens in Melbourne on a sunny Sunday in February 2000. At the rally Sheila shared some important messages:

  • She talked about ovarian cancer having been described as a ‘silent killer’:

  • Silent because the symptoms ‘whisper’ – they are often vague.

  • Silent because women affected are often debilitated by the disease and its treatments and it can be challenging finding people with the energy or who are well enough to speak out.

  • Silent because there was little to offer in the way of hope at that time.

  • Sheila talked of making ovarian cancer ‘silent no more’ – of bringing the facts about ovarian cancer to the public’s attention, raising awareness, promoting vital research and solutions for women so that Sheila’s life and the lives of thousands of other women would not be in vain.

  • She talked of ovarian cancer researchers at the time working with small amounts of funding on small projects in isolation.

  • She talked of harnessing significant funding to draw together the best and the brightest scientists to make real progress through collaborative research.

  • She talked of the importance of symptom awareness that was our best bet in terms of early detection in the absence of a screening test.

  • She spoke with hope of the awareness movement and that women armed with knowledge of the symptoms would listen to their bodies, take action if concerned and that for some of those women, it would make a difference to their lives.

  • Sheila spoke about symptom awareness as holding the key to hundreds of lives and research as holding the key to thousands.

The rally, as well as speaking engagements, fundraising events and media coverage formed the seminal components of a national ovarian cancer movement.

Sheila died peacefully at home in November 2000, and Simon was her primary carer for four months until her death. In a newspaper article published the day after Sheila died, her legacy, and Simon’s work, was laid out: “Her husband…is now custodian of her vision that everything possible be done to translate her death into effective cancer awareness and research”.

Simon promised Sheila that he would continue the journey they had embarked on together through the establishment of a foundation to continue her work. Along with four of Sheila’s friends and collaborators – Karen and Nicole Livingstone, Denise Hynes and comedian Lynda Gibson – Simon founded OvCa in 2001. The organisation became Ovarian Cancer Australia in 2008.

Acknowledgement flags

Ovarian Cancer Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land where our office is located, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation and we pay our respects to Elders past and present.