Funds lag for brain can­cer re­search


RE­SEARCH into cur­ing pae­di­atric brain can­cer, which kills at least 35 chil­dren a year, re­ceives only a frac­tion of the fund­ing handed out to in­ves­ti­gate the ef­fects of wind farms on nearby hu­mans and other more ob­scure projects.

The Na­tional Health and Med­i­cal Re­search Coun­cil, the peak re­search fund­ing body, awarded just $534,102 to pae­di­atric brain can­cer in 2016, the low­est amount since 2006 and less than a third of what was granted in 2012.

Yet, in 2015, a whop­ping $12.5 mil­lion was awarded to re­search­ing the ef­fects of wind farms on hu­mans, while a host of other ob­scure “health” projects scored big.

Other grants awarded by the NHMRC in­cluded $845,278 for re­search into the link be­tween omega-three sup­ple­ments and ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour; $1.89 mil­lion into com­bat­ing asthma in Viet­nam and $2.4 mil­lion to re­duce salt in­take us­ing food pol­icy in­ter­ven­tions.

Pae­di­atric brain can­cer is Aus­tralia’s dead­li­est dis­ease for chil­dren. One child dies ev­ery nine days and out­comes have not changed in three decades. Four out of five chil­dren di­ag­nosed will die.

The in­vest­ment into pae­di­atric brain can­cer re­search has dropped sig­nif­i­cantly each year since the Lib­er­als came to power, halv­ing be­tween 2012 and 2013 and re­duc­ing to the cur­rent low rate.

Brain can­cer re­searcher As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor Ker­rie McDon­ald said the amount granted in 2016 saw dozens of re­search projects knocked back. “It amounts to just one grant, it’s pa­thetic and I know among my 20 col­leagues that they at least put in two ap­pli­ca­tions for grants each last year so we know that 40 to 60 ap­pli­ca­tions got knocked back,” she said. “The NHMRC tell us that the ap­pli­ca­tions weren’t com­pet­i­tive enough on the ba­sis of the science com­pared to more es­tab­lished can­cers.” THEY’RE Aus­tralia’s best of the best and have gold medals in their sights but the Skil­la­roos are not a team of sports stars.

They are young tradies and vo­ca­tional grad­u­ates who have been train­ing hard for the past two years to com­pete at the bi­en­nial tradie Olympics, WorldSkills.

This year the event will be hosted by Abu Dhabi, where com­peti­tors from 58 coun­tries and re­gions will com­pete in 51 skill cat­e­gories from car paint­ing and land­scape gar­den­ing to beauty ther­apy and hair­dress­ing. It kicks off on Satur­day with an open­ing cer­e­mony then three days of com­pe­ti­tion, with projects com­pleted un­der strict test con­di­tions and time lim­its.

Aus­tralia will fight to im­prove its rank­ing from 12th in the world.

WorldSkills Aus­tralia gen­eral man­ager Brigitte Collins said rep­re­sent­ing their coun­try was mo­ti­va­tion enough for the Aus­tralian team, how­ever other coun­tries had fur­ther in­cen­tive.

The Korean Gov­ern­ment, for ex­am­ple, re­warded its gold medal­lists with USD $200,000 and ex­emp­tion from mil­i­tary ser­vice, turn­ing up the pres­sure.

For the first time this year, WorldSkills has in­tro­duced a 3D dig­i­tal game art cat­e­gory and Aus­tralia will send a rep­re­sen­ta­tive for heavy ve­hi­cle main­te­nance.

Ms Collins said this year would also be the first time most projects would not be un­veiled un­til com­pe­ti­tion day.

This is de­signed to pre­vent com­peti­tors from sim­ply prac­tis­ing the one task over and over. In­stead, they must mas­ter all tech­niques within their trade and be ready for any­thing. In some cat­e­gories, how­ever, the project will be known in advance but a 30 per cent change can be made on the day.

Ms Collins said there were two types of as­sess­ment.

The first was pass or fail, where each cri­te­ria re­ceived ei­ther a tick or a cross.

“In brick­lay­ing, it needs to be within a mil­lime­ter, so you get it right or you don’t get it right,” Ms Collins said.

The sec­ond as­sess­ment method was based on pre-de­ter­mined in­dus­try bench­marks.

“It used to be sub­jec­tive where it was a mark­ing scale out of 10 so if I didn’t like the colour or flavour (it would af­fect the score) but we have moved to a scale of zero to three that is bench­mark­ing ex­cel­lence against in­dus­try stan­dards,” she said. “Zero means, for ex­am­ple, if it was a bun in a bak­ery you wouldn’t dis­play it – it’s rock hard and you couldn’t sell it. One bench­marks in­dus­try stan­dards, so for ex­am­ple, all the bread rolls Car­pen­try

22 Crowned Best Tradie in the Na­tion last year, the for­mer TAFE SA stu­dent from Swan Reach is feel­ing con­fi­dent about Aus­tralia’s chances on the world stage. Hard-work­ing Ryan was only a young­ster when his fu­ture ca­reer path was iden­ti­fied. “When I was about 13, my mum and dad were get­ting ren­o­va­tions done by a fam­ily friend,’’ he said. ‘’He saw my pas­sion to work and by Year 10 he of­fered me a job but I fin­ished school first. ‘’I’m a per­fec­tion­ist. Even dur­ing school do­ing (in­dus­trial) tech­nol­ogy, with all my projects I’ve al­ways been very par­tic­u­lar. I think it is a good thing to have in a trade and at WorldSkills. I am prob­a­bly a bit over the top and put too much pres­sure on my­self though. I’ve taken from the start of the year off work just to train for this. I was pre­pared to do that be­cause this is a once-in-al­ife­time op­por­tu­nity.” are the same size, noth­ing spe­cial about them.”

A two meets in­dus­try stan­dards but shows el­e­ments of ex­cel­lence, while a three dis­plays ex­cel­lence. Ms Collins said in jew­ellery, the dif­fer­ence be­tween a one and three was the kind of prod­ucts in a depart­ment store ver­sus Tif­fany & Co.

Earn­ing a three in restau­rant ser­vice, on the other hand, re­quired in­ter­ac­tion with din­ers. “Mak­ing a cock­tail, a three would be not just us­ing the in­gre­di­ents but talk­ing to the cus­tomer while mak­ing it and (good) tech­nique in shak­ing the cock­tail,” she said.

“They put on a bit of a the­atri­cal per­for­mance and the gar­nishes are fan­tas­tic.”

MR CHIPS: Ryan Grieger with kelpie Wil­lis by the River Mur­ray near his fam­ily’s Swan Reach home. Pic­ture: TOM HUNT­LEY

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