YWCA Australia’s national Encore program, an exercise program for women who have experienced breast cancer that works to improve their mobility, flexibility and confidence has sadly finished its funding contract, and services in South Australia, Northern Territory, Victoria, and Queensland will finish at the end of the year.
Encore is a free 8-week exercise and wellness program with land and water-based exercises and information sessions, designed to improve the strength, confidence and well being for women who have experienced breast cancer.
YWCA has been operating the Encore program in Australia since the early 1980s, starting in Melbourne and expanding nationally over time. With its national footprint, Encore has supported roughly 17,000 women across Australia since 1997.
The contract to deliver the Encore program in South Australia, Northern Territory, Victoria, and Queensland was funded by the Australian Government Department of Health to 31 December 2022. Unfortunately, the funding contract was not renewed or extended, and we will be ceasing delivery of the program in the funded states.
In 2021, YWCA made young’s women’s leadership and women’s housing our priority for gender equity in Australia. YWCA is focused on securing funding for these priority areas and will not be pursuing other sources of funding for the Encore Program locations that are closing. YWCA is exploring options to transition the licenses for the remaining Encore Program locations to a suitable provider before their funding contracts end in 2024.
National Encore Program Manager, Ruth Freeland, says that this program is unique. “There is no other exercise and wellness program that combines water and land-based exercise designed specifically for women who have survived breast cancer. Encore is overseen by an Advisory Board of healthcare professionals, who review it to make sure program participants are getting the best results in line with current research.”
But its more than just the program design that makes Encore special. It’s the relationships that the women who attend the program form with each other that has the greatest impact.
“After experiencing breast cancer, a lot of women tend to hide-away because of the trauma and surgeries they’ve been through. Encore helps to build their confidence and self esteem, and gets them used to exercising and socialising again.
Encore is the stepping stone to getting women back out there after breast cancer. It’s the social aspect, and connecting with other survivors where they don’t feel so alone, that keeps them coming back – some have even done the program up to 4 times!” says Ruth.
Leila, a program participant from South Australia, agrees. “The fellowship with the ladies is just what this cancer survivor needs; a reminder that even though our circumstances may be different, I’m not going through this alone.”
Making a difference
YWCA acknowledges and thanks the people that have contributed to the success of the program – facilitators and guest speakers – who make a big difference.
Former South Australian participant, Jan, says Encore has been key in helping her move forward in her breast cancer journey.
“The women whom I have met in this Encore group have become my friends and confidantes, but it was [Encore Program Facilitators] Amy and Carol who set the tone and values for this group to be so trusting of each other, allowing us time and space to say what we might need to get off our chest (no pun intended) or listen with compassion to others. I don’t know where I’d be without these women.”
Encore will continue to operate in Western Australia and New South Wales, delivering support to breast cancer survivors across Australia.