History of the Field of Women

Bringing the statistics of breast cancer to life

The Field of Women is the most powerful public statement for Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA). In 1997, on a flight out of Canberra, BCNA founder Lyn Swinburne looked out of her window and imagined the lawns of Parliament House covered in thousands of tiny Pink Lady silhouettes, each one planted to represent women who are affected by breast cancer each year. The impact of such an event would be monumental.

In 1998 Lyn’s idea became a reality and the first Field of Women was held on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra, marking the launch of BCNA. The Field consisted of 10,000 Pink Lady silhouettes representing the women diagnosed with breast cancer that year and 2,500 white silhouettes for the women who would die from breast cancer in 1998. The Field of Women silhouettes sent a powerful visual message across Australia that women with breast cancer could link together to form a strong movement – Breast Cancer Network Australia – which would work to bring about better outcomes for women and their families.

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This first Field of Women also allowed for the women and men in attendance to pay tribute to and show support for loved ones affected by breast cancer through the placement of personalised messages on each Pink Lady. These poignant messages of hope, encouragement and remembrance served as powerful reminders of the personal impact of the disease and today have become the cornerstone of the Fields of Women.

From that day forward the Pink Lady silhouette became synonymous with BCNA, reflecting our key focus – on the woman rather than the disease. Our Field of Women events have been a way to link women and the community together to pay tribute to and support those Australians affected by breast cancer.

Since 1998 Fields of Women have been planted all around Australia – 1999 in Melbourne, 2000 in Perth, 2001 in Adelaide and Brisbane, 2002 in Sydney, and 2003 in Hobart. In 2005 Field of Women began a regional tour in Port Lincoln, SA and Wollongong, NSW in 2006. These events have helped to build BCNA’s national profile by raising awareness of the impact of breast cancer in communities across Australia.

Field of Women

In 2005, the concept was taken to a new level with the silhouettes replaced by real people. The event saw 11,500 women in pink ponchos and 100 men in blue gathered on the Melbourne Cricket Ground standing shoulder to shoulder.

In 2007 it was Sydney’s turn to bring the statistics to life and 13,100 Australians stood together to show their support for people affected by breast cancer.

We returned to Melbourne in 2010 along with 14,000 women and 100 men.

In 2014, the number of people diagnosed is expected to be 15,000, including 125 men.

Mini-Fields of Women

In 2001 Mini-Fields of Women were introduced in response to women unable to travel to the larger Field of Women display. Mini-Fields are community-based events featuring 100 Pink Lady silhouettes planted in the ground or displayed together. Mini-Fields link together breast cancer survivors in local communities and involve community leaders, health professionals and local businesses. Each Mini-Field is unique to the local community in which it is held and allows individuals the opportunity to leave messages for loved ones in their immediate area.

A wonderful array of Mini-Fields of Women held throughout Australia can be viewed here.

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