Richard Harry – City of Mount Gambier Citizen of the Year

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Richard Harry – City of Mount Gambier Citizen of the Year

Active Citizenship Award

City of Mount Gambier Senior Citizen of the Year

Young Citizen of the Year

Community Event of the Year

Mount Gambier man Richard Harry was a founder of the Limestone Coast Prostate Cancer Support Group (LCPCSG) after his own prostate cancer diagnosis in 2010.

“When your treating specialist tells you you have got the big ‘C’ it frightens the living daylights out of you,” Richard, a husband and father of two, said.

“I ended up having a radical prostatectomy after my diagnosis, but during that time I was trying to find out more information and wanted to talk with other men about why they had chosen particular types of treatment. However, the closest support group was at Murray Bridge.”

After his surgery, the retired dairy farmer and business owner joined with the Rotary Club of Mount Gambier West to facilitate a public meeting to discuss the viability of establishing a local support group.

“We had urologist Professor Villis Marshall come down from Adelaide to speak to us and we also had members of an Adelaide based support group address a crowd of about 150 people,” Richard said.

Following the meeting, LCPCSG was formed in October 2010 with Richard appointed at the helm as chair.

“At the inaugural meeting we decided it was not just to be a men’s group, because any cancer impacts the whole family and we wanted to include the women as well. I think we had 20 odd families at that point in time,” Richard said.

The group provides support, compassion and understanding to men and their families following a prostate cancer diagnosis.

“Over the years it has been interesting to see that we have a transient membership, some people need information and assistance early in the piece, they have their treatment, they find out it’s not always a life sentence and they get on with their life and they walk away from the group,” Richard said.

“Others have stayed on; they enjoy the camaraderie of a group of guys that have been through the same sort of thing.”

The LCPCSG’s functions evolved to include fundraising and lobbying government for equipment and resources.

“We joined with WIN Television to be part of their annual golf charity event which raised funds for us to be able to provide $15,000 to upgrade the chemo chairs at the Mount Gambier Hospital,” Richard said.

“People are there in those chairs for a number of hours when they receive chemo and we thought that it was not just men with prostate cancer that were benefiting from this, it was women with breast cancer, it was kids with childhood cancers such as leukemia, it had a whole community benefit.”

Richard said community groups and organisations from throughout the region got behind the group to support its endeavours to provide support to men diagnosed with prostate cancer.

“We worked with the Male Bag Foundation, WIN TV, Bendigo Bank, Limestone Coast Councils, Naracoorte Area Health Advisory Council and local individuals and businesses to raise $198,000 to purchase a portable Transperineal Biopsy machine in 2019,” he said.

“The machine is used by visiting urologists in Mount Gambier and Naracoorte and reduces the need for men to travel to Adelaide or Melbourne for the procedure.

“I think we have got an absolutely magic community, we work together, it’s not just our community in Mount Gambier, it’s the whole of the Limestone Coast and I feel so privileged that we live in such a caring area.”

Alongside Federal Member for Barker Tony Pasin, Richard was one of the driving forces behind the appointment of a part-time specialist prostate cancer nurse in the Limestone Coast in 2020.

“We were trying to get a nurse for the Limestone Coast nurse as the only prostate nurses at that time were based in Adelaide,” Richard said.

“We were happy when Tracy Bryant was appointed by the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia. She has more than 100 clients across the region and provides information and support to help men come to terms with living with prostate cancer.”

The 79-year-old is also an active member of the Limestone Coast Radiation Treatment Working Group, established in 2022.

The group circulated a petition which garnered 16,000 signatures and an additional 4000 digital signatures in support of establishing a radiation treatment centre in the region.

“We are the only state in the country that does not have a radiation centre outside of a capital city. Why should Mount Gambier, the largest city outside of Adelaide, not have something like this?” Richard said.

Members of the working group presented the petition to state parliament in May 2023 and Richard, Lachie Haynes and Dee Carmody fronted the independent review parliamentary committee that followed in June 2023.

As a result, the State Government is currently undertaking a feasibility study to assess the need for a radiation treatment facility for the region.

This work is expected to be completed by mid-June 2024.

“I am hoping like crazy that we can get a treatment facility here,” Richard said.

“If successful, it will reduce the anxiety around travel costs and family commitments for up to two months at a time while in Adelaide or Warrnambool, Victoria for the radiation treatment for standard cancers.”

Richard was formally recognised for his advocacy work when he was presented with the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia’s Max Gardner Award for Distinguished Service in 2021.

Beyond his dedication to raising cancer awareness, Richard has had a long-term involvement with the local CFS; he received a Paul Harris Fellow for his involvement with the Gambier Lakes Rotary Club between 1992 to 1997; and was involved in Scouts from 1976 until 1992, serving as a leader for Port MacDonnell and then a district leader.

Richard was humble when told he had been awarded the City of Mount Gambier – 2024 Citizen of the Year Award.

“I feel very honoured, but I still feel there are a lot of people out there that do a lot more than me,” he said.

“I am just a cog in the groups that I have been involved with, I am just part of it. It takes a lot of people to bring these things together.”

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in Australian men and Richard has some advice to all men over 50 – get a PSA test.

“Fellas, get yourself tested. I have seen some good men die with it, and it’s not pretty,” he said.

“We do not want that happening, and why should it? If we can do something about it, let’s do it, it’s a simple blood test at the doctor these days.”

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