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About CanTeen

  • CanTeen is a national peer support organisation. CanTeen provides a range of support, recreational and educational programs that aim to bring young people living with cancer together in an environment where they can gain support, share their experiences, learn from others who have 'been there, done that' and have some fun.
  • CanTeen was founded in Sydney in 1985 by six teenage cancer patients and a group of health professionals. CanTeen now operates nationally and similar organisations have since been formed in New Zealand, Ireland and Canada.
  • Members of CanTeen are young people (12 – 24 years of age) living with cancer, including patient's siblings, bereaved siblings, offspring and bereaved offspring.
  • CanTeen's mission is to support, develop and empower young people living with cancer.
  • There are nearly 2000 CanTeen members throughout Australia.
  • CanTeen is committed to young people participating in its management. Members comprise a majority on the national board of directors and each division committee.
  • CanTeen is responsible for raising $2 million dollars each year to operate its programs. CanTeen receives minimal local government funding.
  • CanTeen is a registered charity and donations of $2 or more are tax deductible.

How We Started

CanTeen is based on the philosophy that no young person should go through their cancer experience alone.

In the beginning

CanTeen was born in 1985 at a time when a number of health professionals from the Sydney Children’s Hospital recognised that the health system was not meeting the unique support needs of adolescents with cancer – and their siblings. These health professionals - oncologist Les White, psychiatrist Russell White, social workers Ralph Hampson and Vivien Hart, and PhD student Michael Carr-Gregg - felt that more needed to be done.

The very first camp was organised in early 1985 with the aim of allowing young people with cancer - and their brothers and sisters - to get away from their daily experience of cancer, have some fun, build relationships and share their experiences with each other. This camp was organised with the help of Julie Dunsmore, a psychologist from Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital.

At the same time, Michael Carr-Gregg and six cancer patients – Les Beath, Peter De Pasquale, Roger Morton, Carol Quinlan, Joanne Walsh and Claire Williams – formed a discussion group as part of Michael’s PhD study into the psychological impact of cancer on adolescents. It was from within this group that the idea for the formation of a new organisation came, and in a "eureka" moment Michael Carr-Greg came up with the name CanTeen – a play on cancer and teenager. Michael asked the renowned artist Ken Done (also a cancer survivor) to design a bright and positive logo. CanTeen was well and truly born!

From its humble beginnings in Randwick, Sydney, CanTeen developed into the Australian Organisation for Young People Living with Cancer.

From then til now

Today, CanTeen provides peer support services for 12 to 24 year-olds across three Membership categories; Patient Members are young people who have or have had cancer, Sibling Members have a brother or sister who has or has had cancer, and Offspring Members have a mother, father or primary carer who has or has had cancer.

Each year CanTeen delivers in excess of 80 camps and hundreds of other programs and activities, across eight Divisions around Australia. Like the very first camp, today’s camps are between two and five days long. They contain a mixture of psychological support and development and social activities, and range from general (Divisional) camps for all Members to camps focused on specific needs, like “Bereaved”, “Healthy Living”, “Good Grief” and “Moving Forward”.

All of CanTeen’s camps, as well as the more informal Recreation Days and Cafe Crawls, are aimed at providing Members with a place where they can escape the adult-dominated world of cancer hospitals and the routine of cancer treatments.

To our Members, CanTeen is a place where young people can simply be young people.

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