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SunSafe Program empowers students to spread health message

Students gather at RPA to learn about melanoma and sun safety.

Students presenting to each other during the SunSafe program.
SydneyConnect Image: High school students participating in the SunSafe Student Ambassador Program at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital

Sydney high school students have learned about the dangers of melanoma during an education program held at RPA, that’s designed to encourage teenagers to share sun safe messages with their peers.

Twenty-one Year 8 and 9 students from seven schools participated in the SunSafe Student Ambassador Program, which is run by Melanoma Institute Australia in partnership with Sydney Local Health District, Northern Sydney Local Health District and Cancer Council NSW.

During the one-day program, students learned about the prevalence and dangers of melanoma, the signs of melanoma to look out for and, crucially, how to prevent it. They also learned public speaking skills so they could become SunSafe Ambassadors and return to school and share what they’ve gleaned in a presentation to their year group.

With melanoma now the most common cancer among 20 to 39-year-olds in Australia, it’s vital that young people are aware of sun safety, said Matthew Browne, CEO of Melanoma Institute Australia.

“That’s why we’re here. They’ll take this message to their group and pass it on,” he said.

The District hosted the event last month after a hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We really want young people to understand how important it is to protect their skin, so it has been wonderful to be involved and to see how these students are helping to spread this message,” Renee Moreton, the District’s General Manager of Population Health, said.

Katharine Collins, the Founder of SpeakOut Schools led the presentation skills training, sharing key tips and tricks to help the students feel confident while addressing a crowd.

“As we know, teenagers don’t listen to their parents; they might listen to adults to a degree, but they do believe they’re bulletproof so the best way to get the message through is having peers tell them,” she said.

The program was a hit with the students and teachers alike.

“I thought it was really worthwhile. They presented the information in a fun and engaging way,” Nestacia Karam, a student at Tangara School for Girls, said.

Sam Strelitz from The Scots College added, “I’ve learnt a lot about public speaking and I’m keen to put it into use.”

While Cabramatta High School teacher Victor Pham said, “The information given was good, not only for the students but for the teachers as well. I learned a lot.”

For more information about the Sunsafe Student Ambassador Program, please visit, Melanoma Institute Australia.