Celebrating 20 years of Stroke Foundation

The Stroke Foundation delivers vital work to prevent, treat and beat stroke.

Over the past 20 years the Stroke Foundation has supported thousands of stroke survivors and their families. We have championed research and advocated for access to innovative treatments, increased public awareness and assisted and educated health professionals. Stroke is now a top 10 health issue for Australians.

Each year in Australia there are more than 50,000 strokes – one every 10 minutes. It is estimated there are more than 450,000 people living in our community following a stroke. Although the number of strokes are increasing, more people are surviving with improved outcomes, thanks to prevention programs and new treatments. 

Sir John Holland and Mr David Brownbill

The Stroke Foundation was established in 1983 by Sir John Holland (pictured above left) and Mr David Brownbill (pictured above right) to improve the treatment of stroke and other diseases of the brain and nervous system. In 1996 stroke was identified as the priority area of need and the organisation refocused. It is the renaming of the organisation as the Stroke Foundation with the exclusive focus on stroke that we are marking in 2016. 

We have come a long way in the last two decades and we couldn’t have done it without the generous support of the Australian community – thank you. 

However, there is still much more to do. Too many Australians continue to be impacted by this insidious disease, it doesn’t have to be this way. We need your continued support to prevent, treat and beat stroke.

In 1996 stroke was made a national health priority by the Federal Government 

The first National Stroke Strategy was developed in conjunction with the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and launched by then health minster, the Honourable Dr Michael Wooldridge in September 1997. Stroke strategies for Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia followed.

1996-99 posters

In 1997 the Victorian Government funded a study titled Towards Cost Effective Victorian Stroke Care. A protocol was developed to describe and evaluate stroke services in the state – Stroke Care Outcomes: Providing Effective Services. This was the forerunner to best practice guidelines for stroke.

A new health education and awareness program aimed at the general public and health professionals was developed. The Brain Attack program with its ‘Brain Attack Butterfly’ mascot was launched in September 1998 by tennis legend Frank Sedgeman as part of Stroke Week. The program was dedicated to stroke survivor, Rod Laver. The mascot represented rebirth and recovery following a stroke.

Research continued as a focus under the auspices of the National Research Institute, a subsidiary of the Stroke Foundation. Its research included NEMISIS, a $1 million epidemiology study of stroke – at that time the largest ever undertaken in Australia.

2000-2009 posters

In 2002 the 1800 STROKE helpline was established to provide support to survivors and their families and answer questions about stroke.

The first National Clinical Guidelines for the management of acute stroke was launched in 2003 and updated in 2007 in conjunction with the NHMRC. The first Clinical Guidelines for Stroke Rehabilitation and Recovery were released in 2005.

A new public education and awareness program was launched during Stroke Week in 2004. strokesafeTM aimed to increase community awareness and reduce stroke risk. It launched with a major media campaign urging people to look out for the signs of stroke and live. It was replaced by the FAST signs of stroke campaign in 2007.

In September 2005 the David Brownbill Society was launched. Membership was open to those who confirmed they were leaving a gift in their Will to the Stroke Foundation. Events were run regularly for members to celebrate the generosity of these important benefactors.

2000-2009 posters

In July 2007 the National Stroke Research Institute merged with Howard Florey Institute and the Brain Research Institute to form the Florey Neurosciences Institute. Following this  a new Research Advisory Committee was created and the first Stroke Foundation Research Strategy was developed. During the same year the first National Stroke Clinical Audit was conducted into acute services. This, along with the organisational survey, continues today.

During 2007 a comprehensive report Walk in our shoes found stroke survivors continued to struggle to regain their health after stroke. The Honourable Tony Abbott launched the report at Parliament House in Canberra with a delegation of stroke survivors in attendance.

Know your numbers was piloted in 2008 aiming to raise awareness of stroke risks by undertaking blood pressure checks in pharmacies. A similar program continues today and more than 500,000 checks have been completed helping to save the lives of thousands Australians.

2010-2016 posters

The Fight Stroke grassroots campaign has advocated for funding for stroke. With a membership of more than 45,000 people the campaign achieved pre-election funding commitments for stroke from the Federal Labor Party in 2013 and 2016.

The revised Clinical Guidelines for Stroke Management were released in 2010 by NHMRC. The National Stroke Audit Acute Services (2011, 2013 & 2015) and the National Stroke Audit Rehabilitation Services (2010, 2012, 2014 & 2016) continue to provide valuable data for health professionals and governments on how they can improve patient care. This data is now delivered through InformMe, a new innovative, online portal for health professionals. A new Clinical Council was established in 2011 to ensure our work is based on the latest clinical evidence.

More Australians are aware of the signs of stroke than ever before thanks to the FAST campaign and patients are getting to hospital fast. A significant funding grant for FAST of $2 million from the federal government during 2013/14 helped to save lives and reduced disability with 87% of people now able to recall one or more signs of stroke.

2010-2016 posters

Consumer representation on our committees and councils was enhanced with the establishment of a Consumer Council in 2011. This has ensured the consumer voice is at the centre of our work.

Stroke survivor resources were researched, piloted and launched with the My Stroke Journey kit delivered to patients in acute hospitals nationally. Survivors and their families have access to an online portal enableme which provides information and resources to assist with ongoing rehabilitation.

New strategies focused on consumer engagement, research, cultural diversity and volunteers were launched during 2013- 2015 and these roadmaps, together with our corporate strategy, will ensure the Stroke Foundation continues to focus on the needs of all stakeholders.

November 2017 saw the launch of Australia’s first Mobile Stroke Unit, or Stroke Ambulance.  Over 10,000 Stroke Foundation donors helped to make the landmark project a reality.  With an on-board CT scanner, the vehicle effectively takes the hospital Emergency Department to the patient saving vital time and brain. The research trial is being delivered by Stroke Foundation, the Victorian Government, Ambulance Victoria, Melbourne Health, the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health and The University of Melbourne. 

2 shots of stroke ambulance with scanner inside

In 2018, an ambitious five year plan was released. Strategy 2022 charts the major projects to take the organisation forward.  During the year, the 100,000th copy of My Stroke Journey was provided to a stroke survivor.

20th Anniversary brochure