Shayne Connell to leave his role at Hunter Central Coast Cancer Council under restructure

CHANGES: Shayne Connell is leaving the Cancer Council at the end of the month after 12 years. Picture: Marina Neil
CHANGES: Shayne Connell is leaving the Cancer Council at the end of the month after 12 years. Picture: Marina Neil

AT least four staff from the local Cancer Council branch have been made redundant under a restructure that will also wind up the charity’s flagship school nutrition program, Eat It to Beat It.

Shayne Connell, who has been the face of the Hunter Central Coast Cancer Council for the past 12 years, will leave his role as regional manager at the end of June.

“It has been an incredibly difficult decision because we have grown so much since I first started, and we have become the sort of place that people want to volunteer for, and work for – so it is going to be tough to leave that team,” Mr Connell said.

About 18 roles across three levels of management within Cancer Council NSW have been collapsed into seven positions.

There will be one manager for regional and rural NSW, and six “community leads” – one of which will now oversee the Erina, Charlestown and Singleton branches. 

Another three local staff members, who delivered the Eat It To Beat It program, will step down now that the nutrition campaign has been cancelled.

“Bequest income was significantly down this year, and the Cancer Council need to be responsible with their costs,” Mr Connell said.

“But I do think the changes will be felt by our local committees and support groups, and other supporters, who have less people to lean on now for support from the Cancer Council.”

But Mr Connell said the “superheroes” of the Cancer Council were the volunteers.

In the past decade, local fundraising for the Cancer Council in the Hunter had doubled to more than $2 million per year.

The number of regular volunteers in the region had grown to 330.

Local research grants jumped from one in 2008, to more than nine current projects worth $6 million.

“Only two months ago we gave $2 million to the University of Newcastle for a chemotherapy research study,” he said. “We’ve gone from two local transport services, for Dungog and Maitland, to full coverage of free transport to treatment for cancer patients from Merriwa to Port Stephens and Lake Macquarie.

“We’ve started Stars of Newcastle… which is on again this weekend.”

More than 2000 parents each year had learned how to help their children eat more fruit and vegetables via the Eat It To Beat It initiative, which was piloted in the Hunter 10 years ago.

“We were covering almost every school in the region – we’re talking about tens of thousands of parents that have gone through both the Healthy Lunchbox sessions, and the Fruit and Veg $ense sessions to break down the misconception that eating healthy costs more,” he said.

“My role was to raise the profile of the whole charity... and explain that all the money raised here, stays here.

“It has been the best job in the world,” Mr Connell said.

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