Making waves for breast cancer awareness


The Melbourne Pink Phoenix dragon boat team paddles proudly in pink, inspiring breast cancer survivors and the Docklands community alike.

The Dragons Abreast Melbourne Pink Phoenix dragon boat team has been paddling for more than a year in Victoria Harbour, creating a safe and fun space for breast cancer survivors and their supporters to get on the water and “get their life back.”

“Just seeing the members who’ve joined over the last year and how much fitter and happier they look just from paddling every week and doing a bit more exercise is great,” the team’s social media coordinator Linda Papworth said.

Ms Papworth was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 at just 31 years old. Although she’d never paddled before or even been a part of a team sport, dragon boating “sounded like something different” to try.

“I didn’t know anyone who had breast cancer, so I didn’t know what to do,” Ms Papworth said.

“A traditional support group of just sitting around and talking to cancer survivors wasn’t something I wanted to do – this is something that takes my mind off everything and allows me to be around other people who are positive and excited and happy to be learning as well.”

Although dragon boating originates from China, research from Canada found that the sport was particularly beneficial for women recovering from breast cancer as the paddling motion helps reduces the impact of swelling.

Dragons Abreast teams have now formed Australia-wide during the past 25 years, with the idea of not only connecting like-minded people, but also providing an opportunity to improve physical and mental health among breast cancer survivors.

“We really want to show that there is life after breast cancer and there’s still a good life to be had,” Ms Papworth told Docklands News.

No experience is needed to join the fleet of pink, with Ms Papworth describing the team as an outlet for breast cancer survivors to “be around other people who understand” and “not feel like you’re alone.”

“Cancer is still a bit of a taboo topic and it’s hard to talk to people about it,” Ms Papworth said.

“If you have a slight twinge or pain or something that’s happened, you’re able to talk about it with someone that understands and they’re not going to shoot you down or not want to hear about it.”

Melbourne Pink Phoenix member Nicole Scott said that joining the team was “the best decision that [she] could have ever made.”

“It’s the most amazing feeling being on the water with not a care in the world, just me and 21 friends and occasionally one seal,” Ms Scott said.


They are my pink family; a bond that one will never forget.


Ahead of breast cancer awareness month in October, the Melbourne Pink Phoenix team is offering “come and try” sessions where anyone can paddle for free for the month of October through the Dragon Pass program.

All equipment and instructions are provided by the team, aiming to “give people an opportunity to try it out for free and experience how good it is.”

“We’d like anyone who’s been touched by breast cancer to consider coming down and having a go - get in the boat and don’t look back.” •

For more information and to sign up for the come and try sessions, visit: 

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