The Fiona Elsey Dream

When Ballarat teenager Fiona Elsey lost her cancer fight in 1991 she couldn't have imagined how her courage and inspiration would motivate her community to support the cancer research work of oncologist and clinician haematologist, Professor George Kannourakis, fulfilling her dream to build a cancer research facility in her home town, Ballarat.

Born into a family with two brothers, Fiona attended Delacombe and Alfredton Primary Schools before attending Ballarat High School. Fiona's life was short, but her inspiration and its impact on her community were enormous. Six hundred people attended her funeral. Ballarat High School students lined Ballarat's Pleasant Street to say their farewells. Tributes arrived from two of Fiona's favourite entertainers - Ozzy Ozborne and the band Skid Row.

In February 1998, the Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Laboratory was officially opened. With the help of mum Gail, and fundraising group CICA, Fiona Elsey became a 'power of one to mass the energy of many,' when she planted a seed in her community, making them believe they could make a difference in the lives of those who would face a cancer diagnosis in their future.

Cancer research and its potential outcomes are no longer the domain of large city centres and international destinations. In the future, cancer research outcomes will be driven by extraordinary scientific minds working relentlessly to unlock the riddle of why cells become cancerous and what types of treatments will deliver the best quality of life outcomes.

In 2006, Fiona’s Walk, around Lake Wendouree, was a fundraising initiative of Ballarat High School students, to raise funds in support of Fiona’s dream to have a cancer research facility in Ballarat. Since the start of Fiona’s Walk, thousands of students have participated in this annual event.

The event changed in 2013 to Fiona’s Dream and schools all over Ballarat now organise their own fundraising events within their school environment, to raise vital funds to support the research projects at the Institute.

Learn more about Fiona’s story