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Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre

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At the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre (ONJ Centre) we understand the importance of supporting the whole person throughout their cancer experience.

Which is why wellness underpins the philosophy of the ONJ Centre.

At the ONJ Centre, wellness means to empower people to achieve an optimal state of health, inclusive of their physical, psychological, social, informational and spiritual needs.

Our Wellness & Supportive Care programs and services help people address the challenges of cancer beyond their medical treatment. Our programs are centred on three key initiatives: Staying Active, Eating Well and Emotional Wellbeing.

Beyond our programs, which are accessible to patients and carers, we offer many sanctuary spaces throughout the ONJ Centre including the welcoming Wellness Centre.

All of our Wellness & Supportive Care programs are funded by philanthropy and the community.

Latest Updates

Christine's story

“I always loved gardening, yet through stresses of ill-health, I felt I had lost my passion for it.”

Like many people undergoing a cancer diagnosis and treatment, Christine Fousketakis struggled to get through every day, and things she had loved doing, like gardening, became a thing of the past.

Diagnosed with breast cancer, Christine underwent a rigorous treatment plan at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre (ONJ Centre) including surgery, radiotherapy and hormone therapy.

Christine visits the ONJ Centre twice each week and takes part in many wellness and supportive care programs including horticultural therapy, which is funded by Dry July.

Gardening is a wonderful way to connect with nature and enjoy the present moment. The feel and texture of the soil, the scent of the plants and the ability to facilitate new life by planting seeds and nurturing their growth helps to improve health and well-being of patients and their families, and allows them to enjoy a respite from the emotional turmoil of having cancer.

“Using and engaging with gardens and plants helps people emotionally and physically,” explains Steven Wells, Horticultural Therapist at Austin Health. “It can help patients re-connect with a hobby they may have lost the ability to do themselves, it can act as a diversion from the stress of cancer treatment, and it offers more broad health benefits like connecting with nature by being outdoors in the garden.”

The benefits for Christine have been very clear, and she is so thankful for the opportunity to be involved in horticultural therapy.

“Having attended horticultural therapy helped me to focus less on my current health (even for a short time) and more on something I once enjoyed doing so much,” says Christine. “The group is held in the Wellness Centre garden in a beautiful, serene and relaxing area where one can again learn to enjoy working with nature , no matter how big or small the project.”

“Thank you to all the wonderful Dry July’ers who helped raise money to help people like me,” says Christine.


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Programs at Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre

Dry July 2016 funding will support 3 programs at ONJCWRC:

- Making Meaning Through Music (music therapy groups for people with cancer and for carers). Funding will support 4 x 8 week sessions over a 12 month period, with 12 people in each session. Music therapy provides a safe way for people experiencing cancer to explore and express difficult emotions. 

- Mindfulness Based Street Reduction for People Experiencing Cancer. Mindful meditation practices are run in a supportive small group environment by an experienced accredited teacher. Practices include body awareness, gentle movement and mind training.  

- Horticultural Therapy Program. Horticultural therapy is a process of using plants and garden related activities to assist with achieving patient goals and to promote the well-being of people’s mind, body and spirit, under the guidance of a horticultural therapist. 

Information and Resource Service at ONJCWC

People with cancer have a strong desire for information. For patients and families, information is key in understanding their diagnosis and prognosis, making treatment decisions, and accessing support services. Sometimes this information is about the cancer itself, and sometimes it is about the consequences of cancer in the family – such as how to discuss a parent’s cancer diagnosis with young children, or how to manage finances while a family member is undergoing treatment.

The cancer information service at ONJCWC works with patients and families to help them find information and resources tailored to their needs. This includes having available a broad selection of reputable written and web-based information, and other resources such as DVD’s. The service also links people with community services and agencies who can provide further support once the patient has left hospital.

Dry July funds will go towards updating resources at this service in 2016.

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Counselling Program at Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness Centre

The ONJCWC at Austin Hospital is using funds towards a psychological and emotional support counselling pilot program.

Psychological support for patients with cancer and their carers may be needed at any point in the patient care pathway.

The psychological and emotional counselling support program will provide expertise in diagnosing and treating conditions including anxiety and stress associated with the shock of a cancer diagnosis. It will mean patients and carers can get the right help at the right time. The program will result in reduced distress and promote adjustment in patients and carers, enabling them to enjoy a better quality of life.  

Artist Residency Program

Dry July funds are going towards the establishment of an artist residency program at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness Centre, that will engage patients and carers in creating artwork that is personally meaningful during their stay as an inpatient or while attending the centre as an outpatient.

When patients and carers come into a Cancer Centre they are often anxious, scared and feel isolated from their families and wider community. The artist in residence program will enable them to engage in artistic activities that allow them to relax and engage in their own creativity, to express their feelings, to engage in an activity that distracts them from the rigour of treatment and that connects them with the wider community. Through the arts, people with cancer and their carers are able to find a “safe space” for themselves during what is often a confronting life experience.

One of the highlights of the project was the Art Therapy Brain Cancer Support Group - Mosaic Sculpture, as pictured here.

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