The Rathbones have been fundraising and advocating for childhood cancer since their son Matthew was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 1979.
Ann and Doug Rathbone AM have been loyal family advocates and generous fundraisers for childhood cancer for decades.
In 1979, the Rathbones received the terrible news that no parent wants to hear. Their son Matthew had Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. At just three years old, he underwent treatment, including being the first Australian to receive a successful bone marrow transplant.
It’s tough for every family with a child going through cancer, but back then, children’s hospital cancer facilities were a little unkind.
“The wards were so different then. There were only two isolation rooms which weren’t child friendly. Matthew had to spend weeks on the ward, and all the parents slept on camp beds,” Ann recalled.
In 1998 they established the Children’s Cancer Foundation to help achieve this goal. Doug was instrumental in launching the Foundation’s Capital Appeal in 2002 which raised $22 million to refurbish the Children’s Cancer Centre at The Royal Children’s Hospital and construct a linked research laboratory two years later. Doug stepped down from the Board in 2012 after 15 years of dedicated volunteer work.
Matthew recovered and returned to normal life as much as possible. He would not get to be cancer-free just yet though. Due to the radiation that Matthew received as a toddler, he later developed a non-malignant brain tumour and underwent surgery and radiotherapy at fourteen. In 2015 at aged 39, Matthew required further treatment because the tumour had grown.
This is not an uncommon scenario in childhood cancer treatment. About 10% of children that receive treatment develop treatment-related cancer later in life. The Foundation not only funds neuropsychologists to enable the best outcomes post-treatment but also supports new research that seeks to reduce this alarming statistic.
The Rathbone’s experience fuelled a desire to make things better for children in the future going through treatment, and their families. They’ve gone on to become celebrated family advocates in the childhood cancer sector.
The Rathbone family own Rathbone Wine Group which includes some of Victoria’s most revered drops found at Yering Station, Xanadu and Mount Langhi Ghiran.
According to Ann, Matthew “is known to have one of the best palettes”, and that palette is put to good use in selecting which grape varieties are blended.
It’s not just Ann and Doug who champion the cause, but also their sons Darren and Brad. In October 2015, the family held a lunch at Yering Station, where they hosted Vue de Monde’s Shannon Bennett and raised over $20,000 for the Foundation.
We sincerely thank the Rathbone family advocates for their 35 years of fundraising and service for childhood cancer. Their heartfelt dedication has done wonders to lift the standard of care for children with cancer and ensure that Melbourne is at the forefront of paediatric oncology clinical care and research.
This article was updated in 2020. Matthew sadly lost his long hard-fought battle with cancer on 5 March 2019, after the tumour returned and three unsuccessful surgeries to extend his life.
“We are forever grateful to the Royal Children’s Hospital because we had 40 years with him that we would never have had otherwise.”– Doug and Ann Rathbone