The origins of the Geelong Prostate Support Group can be traced back to 2002. Rolly Armstrong of Geelong had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and was seeking information and empowerment prior to deciding on treatment. There were only two groups in Melbourne then: one based in Melbourne itself and another in Heidelberg. Rolly joined the Melbourne group and attended several of its monthly meetings.
During the three months that Rolly participated in the Melbourne group, there were further inquiries from others in the Geelong area who had been diagnosed with prostate disease. It appeared there could be sufficient interest to make a Geelong based group a worthwhile initiative. Rolly and several others decided to proceed with the idea of forming a group to serve the Geelong area.
Members of the Melbourne and Heidelberg groups offered to help start a group in Geelong. On 7 April 2003 they met at Rolly’s home to consider the practicalities of establishing a local group. Seven Geelong residents attended, including Ramsay Revere and Bruce Kinnersley, whom Rolly already knew and who was a valuable source of information in dealing with his diagnosis.
Prostate Geelong was born. With guidance from Cyril Vosper of Prostate Melbourne, Rolly, Bruce and Ramsay became founders of the group. Rolly became the group’s first coordinator. In those early days Graeme Robertson was another to pitch in, taking on the secretary responsibilities. Together they became stalwarts of the fledgling group and quickly attracted others with shared interests.
The first monthly meeting was held on 12 May 2003 at St John of God Hospital (SJOG). There were 15 men and a few partners present at that first meeting. The trial and venue were clearly successful as SJOG remained the normal meeting place for thirteen more years.
Over its life the group has attracted valuable support from peak cancer bodies. Cancer Council Victoria provided assistance with training and leadership, particularly in the group’s early stages. The group’s affiliation with the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia was approved in a letter dated 24 June 2003 (the PCFA itself having only been formed in March 1996). PCFA has since been an essential source of information on leading research and emerging developments in the treatment of prostate related disease.
The group continues to meet monthly, with attendance often exceeding 35, and with an active partners group.
As member numbers grew the idea of forming a Bellarine group took shape. In 2009 Graeme Robertson and John Lee, with support from Geelong, led the establishment of the Bellarine PSG. The meeting times of this group were designed to cater to members who could not regularly attend the Geelong meetings. After initial success member numbers for the Bellarine eventually dwindled below critical mass and in 2014 the group was re-absorbed into Geelong
Since 2003 Geelong PSG has hosted presentations by experts in a wide range of fields relevant to member interests. In addition, we have conducted excursions to specialist medical research and treatment centres, and to diet and nutrition advisers. Over the years the group has also participated in numerous community based activities to support the promotion of men’s health. These include Men’s Health Week activities, Blokes Day Out, Movember, and Male Bag Foundation events.
In 2014 Geelong PSG was delighted when Bruce Kinnersley was announced by the PCFA as a winner of the prestigious Max Gardner Award. This award was presented to Bruce in recognition of his efforts and dedication over many years in assisting men and their families to deal with prostate cancer, and in raising community awareness of the disease.
In July 2016, because of extensive renovations under way at SJOG, the regular meeting venue was moved to the Andrew Love Centre, where there is a permanent home for our library of CDs, DVDs, books and other printed material.
Membership of the group has grown since the early days, to more than eighty at the start of 2017.