Radiotherapy in Queensland: Pre-2000

The table below summarises the development of radiation oncology, particularly radiation oncology medical physics, in Queensland, prior to the year 2000.

Year Milestone
1926 Lt Col D. C. Cameron M. H. R., of Brisbane, contacts Dr. Earle Page, the Acting Prime Minister requesting that more should be done to encourage the use of radium in Australia. Lt Col Cameron had learned (through Mr Peter Macgregor) that his son, a cancer patient, had been successfully treated by radium in the United States. The matter is referred to a Cancer Research Advisory Committee which had been appointed in 1925 (Richardson, 1981).
1927 The Commonwealth Government makes the decision to purchase 10 g of radium for use in each state, at a cost of £100,000, following advice from the Cancer Research Advisory Committee. The first half gram arrives in May 1928. (Morgan, 1996).
1928 Queensland receives it's first half gram of radium in May, followed by thirty four 1 mg needles and a further half gram in November. These supplies are distributed to hospitals in Brisbane, Toowoomba, Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville, Cairns and Longreach. The Queensland Cancer Trust, part of the British Empire Cancer Campaign, makes radium available on hire to private practitioners (Tweddell, 1975). Treatments include radium plates (for skin), needles (for lip, vagina, tonsil and other sites), large molds (for breast), and bombs (for lymph nodes in the neck and groin) (Morgan, 1996). The radium ward at the General Hospital contains 16 beds (rooms of 5 beds for men and women, and 6 beds in 3 private patient rooms) (Hoffman, 1986).
1928 The state's first Cancer Clinic at the Mater Misericordiæ Hospital is officially opened on the 26th December by the Queensland Cancer Trust, chaired by Mr. F. K. Lloyd. This opening was funded by public donations ($104,000) raised by a cancer campaign committee established by Lt Col Cameron and presided by Dr. Jack Stanford. The clinic features a Victor Snook Deep X-Ray therapy unit, which treats 137 in the first 15 months of operation (Tweddell, 1975), with a total of 684 treatment hours (Hoffman, 1986). This is one of the earliest deep therapy units in Australia, preceded only by units in Melbourne and Sydney (Morgan, 1996). Mr John Nebe was the first technician to use the unit (Hoffman, 1986).
1936 A Chaoul superficial unit was donated to the Mater Misericordiæ by Sir Herbert Austin after a very persuasive Dr. L. McKillop had visited Berlin. The unit was used from 1936 to 1956 (Tweddell, 1975).
1939 Two further systems were donated to the Mater Misericordiæ – a Maximar 220 kV unit and a Watson Victor 400 kV unit (Morgan, 1996).
1940 Mr. David Walker is appointed as a radiographer in 1940. He is later appointed as a radiographer/physicist in 1950, and the first full-time hospital-employed physicist in 1955.
1945 The Queensland Radium Institute (QRI) replaces the dissolved Queensland Cancer Trust with the passing of the Amendment to the Health Act 1945 on April 5th. The QRI, located at the Brisbane General Hospital (at the site of the current Royal Brisbane & Women's Hospital) takes over the Mater Misericordiæ clinic, which becomes the QRI Mater sub-centre (Tweddell, 1975). Peripheral clinics utilising radium needles were set up in Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton, Bundaberg and Maryborough (Morgan, 1996).
1949 The QRI Mater sub-centre installs a Maximar 250 kV deep therapy unit (Hoffman, 1986).
1949 The QRI Townsville sub-centre commences operation with a Fleximar skin unit, transferred from the General Hospital. This is later replaced with a Stanford unit (Tweddell, 1975).
1952 Rockhampton installs a Stanford skin unit (Tweddell, 1975).
1952 The first pterygium case is treated with a Strontium 90 beta ray applicator in Cairns (Tweddell, 1975). These applicators replaced radium and radon plates and were also used for superficial skin lesions and epithelioma of the eye (Hoffman, 1986).
1955 The Commonwealth Government set up a radiotherapy department in Port Moresby, which was initially staffed by Queensland Radium Institute secondments. The department contained Maximar 250 kV and Fleximar 140 kV units.
1956 The first linear accelerator treatment in Australia occurs on 13th November at QRI, on a Metropolitan-Vickers 4 MV machine (Morgan, 1996). This is among the first accelerators used internationally – at the time there was somewhere between 7 and 15 clinical accelerators. 4 MV accelerators were later introduced in Melbourne in the same year, and in Adelaide in 1957. The increase in workload had the radiographers working half a day on megavoltage therapy and half a day on conventional x-ray therapy.
1960 Australasian College of Physical Scientists and Engineers in Medicine started.
1961 The Queensland Cancer Fund is established, with an aim to purchase medical equipment for QRI.
1964 Toowoomba installs a Muller skin unit (Tweddell, 1975).
1968 The QRI Mater sub-centre installs a Cobalt-60 theraton treatment unit with facilities for a planning room.
1969 Mackay gets a Muller skin unit (Tweddell, 1975).
1970 The New Guinea sub-centre of QRI in Lae installs a Cobalt-60 treatment unit (Tweddell, 1975).
1971 The workforce includes 11 full-time therapists, 2 part-time therapists, 7 physicists, 1 cadet physicist, 33 radiographers, 30 local radiographer cadets, 2 radiographer cadets from PNG, 2 medical assistants and 7 x-ray engineers (Hoffman, 1986).
1974 Koch & Sterzel Therapix C100 machines were installed in Cairns, Townsville and Rockhampton; funded by Queensland Cancer Fund donations (Tweddell, 1975).
1982 The Wark Report, a review of the future requirements of QRI for the Minister for Health, was undertaken.
1988 The Wesley Cancer Care Centre commences operations on Queensland Day (during World Expo '88), with a single 6/100 Varian linear accelerator. The opening is attended by the Duke and Duchess of Kent, and Premier Mike Ahern. Staff include physicists Greg Pedrazzini and Peter Christiansen.
1988 The Engineering and the Physical Sciences in Medicine conference is held Brisbane.
1991 The Queensland Radium Institute ceased to exist on 30 June, following the re-organisation of health services under the the Health Services Act 1991.
1993 The Mater centre expands from two to four linear accelerators.
1995 Wesley Cancer Care opens a new private treatment centre at the John Flynn Hospital in Tugun, and the organisation is renamed Premion.


  • Hoffman, KM, 1986. The History of the Queensland Cancer Trust and the Queensland Radium Institute.
  • Morgan GW, 1996. Development of radiation oncology services in Australia, International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics 36(1): 219-232.
  • Richardson JF 1981. The Australian Radiation Laboratory: A concise history 1929–1979, Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service.
  • Tweddell J, 1975. The History of Radiotherapy in Queensland, The Radiographer 22: 4-7.