BALYA Cancer Self Help & Wellness Inc is a non profit organisation, incorporated in 1992 whose aim is to:

offer to people with a diagnosis of cancer, their families, supporters and carers a full range of services and information, and support, to enable them to participate in and make informed decisions about their condition and treatment. educate health professionals and the broader community about cancer, its prevention and its treatment.

The management of the organisation is undertaken by a voluntary committee of seven people with expertise in health, psychology, business and social work. Balya funds one full time position to provide administrative support for its activities and has a very strong and stable volunteer support base, with more than 100 active volunteers involved in the organisation.

Balya provides a range of support services to any adult who has been diagnosed with any form of cancer. The establishment of Balya was in many respects a response to the community environment in relation to Health services broadly, and Cancer services specifically.

Since the mid 1980's, there has been a very clear Government policy shift away from hospital based care services to community based care services. Whilst this is a policy which Balya supports in principle, it has particular implications for some people who have chronic or terminal illness, such as cancer. Increasingly, the services provided by the hospital system are targeted very specifically to those stages of illness which require intense medical intervention.

With this reduced and more targeted resourcing, the kinds of direct support which cancer patients are able to receive through the public hospital system are diminished, particularly if their medical conditions are such that it is deemed that they would not benefit from aggressive medical intervention, or if they have completed therapy and are not any longer actively involved in a treatment program. Correspondingly, as hospital based services have become more targeted to the acute intervention stage, there has been significant improvement in the range of palliative care and hospice services for people in the latter stages of terminal illness.

In between these two extremes i.e., active medical management of the patient and palliative management in the latter stages of a terminal illness is a large group of cancer patients. Some of these are in an extended phase of rehabilitation and recovery, and have a positive long term prognosis, some are in remission but have an uncertain longer term prognosis, and others have a long term prognosis which is not hopeful, but are not at the stage of requiring palliative care services.

While Balya's services are available to all cancer patients and their families, it is this large group in particular, for whom hospital based support services have become increasingly limited, whose needs are those to which Balya especially endeavours to respond.

At the broader community level, with greater workforce participation by women, many of the more traditional informal supports are less available than they were twenty years ago. Families move more frequently and an extended family network is less often available.

As well as providing direct support for the cancer patient, Balya recognises the pressures on family members when someone has cancer, and offers support services for them as well.

Balya is a non profit organisation, which was established by Dr Ivy Bullen in 1989, and which became incorporated in 1992. Balya works co operatively with other health care agencies and cancer support organisations, but fills a unique niche.

It is the only organisation in WA providing this range of services, to people who have been diagnosed as having cancer, and to their families.

In particular, the Retreats which Balya offers are unique in the sense that participants are offered a holistic approach to follow in the management of their cancer, by combining a medical approach with other complementary interventions, and implementing positive health management techniques in a controlled and supportive environment.


Cancer causes 25% of all deaths in Western Australia, and is the second most common cause of death after circulatory disease. On average, one in three Western Australian men and one in four women are at risk of developing cancer at some time in their lives. Since 1982, there has been a significant rise in cancer incidence for both men and women. Between 1982 and 1991 for example, the rate of incidence of malignant melanoma in men increased by an average of 7% per annum. Breast cancer increased by an average of 3.3% and prostate cancer by an average 0f 5.6% per annum. Despite the increase in incidence, as medicine and technology advance, more people with cancer are surviving for longer periods of time. Whilst some survive free of the disease, others have needs for ongoing support, in order to maintain a reasonable quality of life. It was in response to these changing factors in the environment of the Western Australian community that the concept of Balya, a holistic service to support people with cancer and their families and carers, was developed.