SunSmart celebrates 30 years of supporting young Victorians

Friday 2 February, 2024

SunSmart Victoria’s Schools Program reaches major milestone, celebrating 30 years of supporting schools to be sun safe.

State-wide, almost 90% of primary schools are members of the SunSmart Schools Program, which was established in 1994 and currently reaches around 462,000 Victorian primary students and their families.

Head of SunSmart Victoria, Emma Glassenbury, says exposure to UV radiation during childhood and adolescence has a big impact on skin cancer risk.

“Schools play a significant role in reducing melanoma and skin cancer risk by putting policies in place to reduce UV exposure at school and teaching sensible sun protection habits from an early age.

“We’ve seen positive progress in skin cancer prevention in Victoria with a decline in melanoma rates for people under the age of 50 years – this is the generation that has grown up with SunSmart, said Ms Glassenbury.

“The SunSmart Schools Program is a world leading public health success story and we acknowledge the strong support from government over this time – undoubtedly it is making a significant difference to the burden of skin cancer in this state.”

Most skin cancers, including melanoma, are preventable by using sun protection, therefore education about UV and how to reduce exposure from an early age is critical.

Teachers and educators play a pivotal role in implementing measures to protect their students and championing sun protective behaviours in a fun and memorable way to help children create lifesaving habits.

Minister for Health Mary-Anne Thomas said, “Victoria’s lifesaving SunSmart program has been keeping children safe for 30 years – as the UV radiation increases, it is now more important than ever for kids to be taught and practice Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide.”

Since the 90s, young Victorians have grown up learning about the dangers of the sun’s UV and how best to protect themselves by remembering to Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide.

Minister for Education Ben Carroll said, “Establishing sun smart habits early is so important and our hardworking teachers and educators are playing an incredibly important role, helping Victorian kids understand the risks of harmful UV exposure.”

The SunSmart generation that have grown up with SunSmart messages, and are benefiting from reduced melanoma rates, are now sending their children off to school to create the same healthy habits they can take with them for life.

“It’s remarkable the behaviour change we’ve seen in primary schools in that parents expect their child to be to be protected from UV when they go to school,” Ms Glassenbury said.

Prior to the SunSmart School Program starting in 1994, only 19% of primary schools reported hat wearing.

“Today, 100% of primary schools report hat wearing, showing that simple and consistent messaging works to help us educate the next generation to be SunSmart,” said Ms Glassenbury.

Sun protection is a shared responsibility. Families can support your school’s SunSmart culture by ensuring all the sun protection gear is ready from day one.

SunSmart’s back to school tips for families:

  1. Create opportunities for your child to apply sunscreen, so they know how to do it independently before and during school.
  2. Attach sunscreen to your child’s backpack, so it can be an easy reminder to reapply at school.
  3. Label your child’s hat, so they can easily grab their hat before heading outdoors.
  4. Encourage your child to look for shady spaces to play outdoors.

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