It took a near-death experience for Anne Gately, the 393rd person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, to realise that Australia needed to make a profound cultural shift.

In 2018, Anne was diagnosed with an incurable stage four melanoma. Historically, people in that situation survived for only 12-24 months; but Anne was given a new treatment – immunotherapy – under the care of Professor Georgina Long, the future Australian of the Year, that, remarkably, eliminated all the cancer from her body within 97 days.

Anne, like many Australians, is a fair-skinned, outdoorsy person who grew up playing sport and going to the beach – but rarely protected herself against the sun. Two out of three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70, according to the Cancer Council.

Despite her melanoma, Anne was shocked to discover close relatives were still sunbaking and getting burnt. It made her realise that while personal responsibility was important, systemic change was needed, and the media and sporting industries needed to play a vital role in helping to bring about sustainable change in Australia’s sun-protection behaviours.

Anne, whose career has been in marketing and advertising, has spent the past few years sharing her story with agencies and asking them to no longer include bad sun habits in their ads, in the same way they no longer depict speeding drivers. But while some individual agencies have heeded her message, the industry has yet to commit to new standards.

Anne is a kind person with a no-nonsense outlook. When she received her melanoma diagnosis, she had moments of self-pity, but, mostly, realised she’d be better served by just getting on with life and hoping for the best. Once she came out the other side, Anne decided to participate in the fight against skin cancer. 

As part of her advocacy, Anne speaks at conferences, meets with politicians and appears in the media. She’s also recently published a memoir, Sunburnt, which I’m looking forward to reading.