It’s been almost 13 years since you founded the McGrath Foundation with the late Jane McGrath, wife of then Australian fast bowler Glenn McGrath. When did you meet Jane?
In 1996, when she moved to Australia from the UK to be with Glenn. Although we were both from the UK, I lived in Manchester and she lived in the Midlands, so we didn’t know each other beforehand but became great friends from the moment we met.
You were with Jane when she found a lump in her breast. When did the idea for the Foundation arise?
I was with Jane on an Ashes Tour in 1997 when she came to me [about] something concerning her. She took my hand, placed it on her breast and instantly I felt a lump. At 31 years old my friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2000, when Jane wrote ‘Love for Life’, about her experience with breast cancer, they were looking to donate proceeds from the sale that Jane had the idea for the charity and asked me to get involved. At first we didn’t know what we were going to raise funds for. It wasn’t until Jane was re-diagnosed in 2003 and she had the support of a breast care nurse that the mission for the McGrath Foundation was set.
What were the early goals of the Foundation?
That every family in Australia experiencing breast cancer would have access to the free support of a McGrath Breast Care Nurse regardless of where they lived or their financial situation.
Business and sport have always been in tandem yet not-for-profits often struggle to get the funding they require. Was it easier for the McGrath Foundation due to the cricket link?
Cricket Australia gave the McGrath Foundation a great platform to fundraise and have been massively supportive over the years, and obviously the link with Glenn and Jane was huge.
What we do is very tangible so the public can see exactly what a difference their donation is making. Because 49 people are diagnosed with breast cancer every day, everyone seems to know someone who has been touched by this disease, and those families that have had the support from a McGrath Breast Care Nurse really understand and appreciate what we’re doing.
What goals had the foundation kicked before Jane’s cancer returned?
Before Jane passed away in 2008 we had the funding for six McGrath Breast Care Nurses but Jane was responsible for the government funding as she wrote a letter to the then prime minister John Howard asking him to help us fund more nurses, especially in regional Australia. Jane knew how tough it was for her going through her treatment so she wanted to focus on rural families. John Howard made an election promise to fund 44 nurses. Jane was enormously proud of that as she knew we would have 50 breast care nurses in total.
What plans were made for the foundation when it became clear that Jane would not beat her cancer?
Just before Jane passed away on June 22, 2008, Glenn and I promised her we would continue her work at the McGrath Foundation and we have been keeping that promise ever since.
Just before Jane passed away on June 22, 2008, Glenn and I promised her we would continue her work.Tracy Bevan
In what shape is the Foundation today?
We have 119 McGrath Breast Care Nurses working in communities across Australia and we have supported over 60,000 families experiencing breast cancer.
What are its 2018 goals?
To continue raising money to fund our current 119 McGrath Breast Care Nurses and look to increase the number as there as still many families who don’t have free access to a breast care nurse.
How has the Foundation influenced you?
The Foundation has had a huge influence on every aspect my life. It’s allowed me to show my daughters, Olivia and Amelia, that the old saying “find what you are passionate about and you will never have to work a day in your life” is completely true as they see how much I love going to my “job” every single day. It has given me the confidence to believe in myself and that sharing my experiences can help others.
What is your role?
My role as ambassador and director is focused on spreading the message of the support McGrath Breast Care Nurses provide. Most importantly I can thank those that support us. On a personal level my role also allows me to keep the promise I made to my friend Jane before she passed.
You have spoken about your post-natal depression and marriage separation. Do you feel you have been given a platform?
I do believe I’ve been given a huge platform to help women and I can do that by sharing my story and experiences to show them they too can overcome setbacks to do whatever it is they are passionate about regardless of their background.
What will you discuss at May 24 tNewcastle event?
Thanks to Gen Collective and Community First Credit Union I’ll be sharing the story of the McGrath Foundation, how we went from my kitchen table to one of Australia’s most loved charities, and some of the important life lessons I’ve learned along the way.
What is the biggest lesson you learnt from Jane?
That with passion, vision, love and a great friend by your side you can really make a difference. See gencollective.com.au for details on the May 24 event.