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About Us

The McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer is the only centre of its kind in the world. It exists to make the law work better to prevent cancer and help those affected by it.

Building knowledge, capacity and networks at global, regional and local levels, the McCabe Centre promotes the use of law as an effective and essential tool in the prevention and control of cancer, as well as other non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The McCabe Centre is a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Law and Non-Communicable Diseases and the designated WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Knowledge Hub on legal challenges to the Convention’s implementation.

Established in 2012, the McCabe Centre is a Melbourne-based joint initiative of Cancer Council Victoria, the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and Cancer Council Australia.

Our vision
A world free from preventable cancers and in which all people affected by cancer have equitable access to safe, effective and affordable cancer treatment and care.

Our mission
To promote the effective use of law for the prevention and control of cancer and other non-communicable diseases by building knowledge, expertise, capacity and networks at global, regional and domestic levels.

Focus areas

Our work is broad, spanning the full spectrum of cancer prevention and control:

Prevention: including tobacco control, with a focus on legal challenges to implementation of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), in our role as a WHO FCTC Knowledge Hub; overweight and obesity prevention; and prevention of alcohol-related harm.

Control: including availability, accessibility, safety, quality and efficacy of cancer treatments and services, and supportive care services; support for patients and health practitioners making medical treatment decisions; regulation, qualification and education of health practitioners; collection and use of health information; and protection of the rights of people affected by cancer.

Read more about our focus areas. 

What we do

Research and analysis: We conduct high-quality legal and policy research and analysis.

Make connections and shape thinking: We make connections across apparently disparate areas of law, research, policy and practice, shaping the way in which challenges and opportunities are understood and approached.

Generate and share knowledge: We produce high-quality publications and resources, and share them for use by others around the world.

Train and capacity build: We conduct a wide range of training and capacity building activities for governments, intergovernmental organisations, civil society organisations, health professionals and people affected by cancer, through which we support others to develop and enhance their knowledge, skills and confidence.

Develop and foster networks: We bring together people from different countries, sectors, cultures, disciplines and settings, and develop and foster global, regional and national networks of information exchange, peer support and collaboration.

You can read more about work, our values, our strengths, our goals and our plans in our 2018-2022 Strategic Plan.

Rolah McCabe

Rolah McCabe was an Australian woman with smoking-related lung cancer who brought a lawsuit against British American Tobacco (BAT) Australia in the Supreme Court of Victoria in 2001. Rolah’s case garnered international attention by exposing BAT’s systematic destruction of thousands of documents under its ‘Document Retention Policy’. The evidence that the McCabe case uncovered has been used by the US Department of Justice in its multi-billion dollar lawsuit against the US tobacco industry under anti-racketeering law.

After Rolah died, at 51, the case was continued by her children and was in the courts for almost 10 years. It was settled confidentially in March 2011. The McCabe family and their lawyers contributed funds towards the establishment of the McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer to create a legacy to Rolah’s courage both in battling her cancer and in calling the tobacco industry to account.

Read more about the McCabe Case. 

About the Director

Jonathan Liberman
Jonathan is a lawyer with over twenty years' experience in legal and policy research, advice, training and technical support relating to cancer control at both domestic and global levels. His work covers a wide range of issues relating to cancer prevention, treatment, supportive care and research.

Under Jonathan’s leadership, the McCabe Centre has become a WHO Collaborating Centre for Law and Non-Communicable Diseases; a WHO Framework Convention Knowledge Hub; and established an international legal training program that builds capacity and expertise in the use of law for the prevention and control of cancer and other NCDs, particularly in the context of developing policy coherence between health, trade, investment, human rights and sustainable development.

Jonathan has published extensively on the relationships between law and cancer control, and co-edited two books (with Professors: Tania Voon and Andrew Mitchell), Public Health and Plain Packaging of Cigarettes: Legal Issues, and Regulating Tobacco, Alcohol and Unhealthy Foods: The Legal Issues. Jonathan was a member of the Australian Government’s Expert Advisory Group on Plain Packaging; and is a member of the International Agency for Research on Cancer Working Group on Social Inequalities and Cancer; and the Lancet Oncology Global Commission on Cancer Surgery.

Jonathan has degrees in Arts and Law (first class honours) and a Master of Public and International Law. He is a Senior Fellow of the Melbourne Law School.

McCabe Centre Staff

Sondra Davoren  - Manager - Treatment and Supportive Care
Sondra’s work focuses on the role of law in cancer treatment and supportive care, including on access to treatment; anti-discrimination protections for people affected by cancer; end of life law and policy; and regulation of health information.  

Anita George - Manager - Prevention
Anita’s work focuses on global governance and regulation of NCD risk factors and the interrelationship between NCD prevention, trade and investment law, human rights and sustainable development, with a focus on overweight and obesity prevention, air pollution and gender equality.

Suzanne Zhou - Legal Policy Advisor
Suzanne’s work focuses on the McCabe Centre’s role as the WHO FCTC Knowledge Hub for legal challenges to tobacco control measures, as well as health, trade and investment law in the context of NCD prevention more generally.

Elle Spring - Communications and Stakeholder Engagement Manager
Elle focuses on capturing and communicating the work of the McCabe Centre through a variety of mediums. She also fosters engagement with alumni of our training programs, building a diverse network of knowledge sharing and mutual learning. 

Clare Slattery - Legal Research Officer
Clare’s work focuses on the interplay between public health, trade and investment law in relation to NCD prevention, with a focus on the regulation of the harmful use of alcohol.

Tarishi Desai - Legal Research Officer
Tarishi’s work focuses on the role of law in cancer treatment and supportive care, including issues related to access to treatment; the protection of rights of people affected by cancer; regulation of health providers and services; and the regulation of health information. 

Samantha Robertson - Office Manager
Samantha provides administrative and operational support, and coordinates key McCabe Centre events, including the International Legal Training Programs.

Regional Coordinators

Rachel Kitonyo Devotsu - Regional Coordinator for Africa
Rachel is based in Nairobi, Kenya. She leads the components of the McCabe Centre’s training and capacity-building programs that relate to the African region and provides technical support to governments in the African Region. 

Daiana Buresova -  Regional Coordinator for the Pacific
Daiana, is based in Suva, Fiji. She leads the components of the McCabe Centre’s training and capacity-building programs that relate to the Pacific Island region and provides technical support to Pacific Island governments.

Evita Ricafort -  Regional Coordinator for Asia
Evita is based in Manila, the Philippines. She leads the components of the McCabe Centre’s training and capacity-building programs pertaining to Asian countries in the Western Pacific Region and South East Asia Region, and provides technical support to governments across both regions.

Support from the Australian Government

We conduct our International Legal Training Program with primary funding support from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs Trade, and perform our WHO FCTC Knowledge Hub responsibilities with funding support from the Australian Department of Health.