Two ‘Australian of the Year’ Awardees Warn Against Tanning Culture

Tanning Clovelly Beach

Georgina Long and Richard Scolyer are melanoma researchers who were recently honoured as 2024 Australians of the Year and they are delivering a stark warning about our nation’s tanning culture. 

Despite having one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, Australians continue to embrace tanning as part of their lifestyle, especially for many sun-loving beachgoers at Clovelly Beach. 

Ms Long and Mr Scolyer raised concerns about Australia’s tanning culture during their acceptance speech, equating it to “brewing melanomas.” They emphasised the alarming rates of skin cancer in the country, revealing that approximately two out of three Australians are diagnosed with some form of skin cancer before the age of 70.

The pair of experts have transformed once-fatal skin cancer diagnoses into largely curable cases. However, in a poignant moment, Mr Scolyer, shared his own battle with stage four brain cancer, highlighting the fragility of life and his determination to make a difference. 

Australians of the Year 2024
Photo Credit: University of Sydney

Amid their recognition, Long and Scolyer passionately addressed the issue of tanning culture in Australia, advocating for a radical rethink of sun safety practices and calling for a change in the way tanning is portrayed in media and advertising.

As temperatures soared to 36 degrees Celsius at Clovelly Beach on Australia Day, the day the awardees accepted their honour, the tanning culture was unmistakably on display. 

Some beachgoers admitted to a lack of concern about the risks associated with sun exposure and melanoma. Even visitors from other countries shared their enthusiasm for the Australian climate and its beaches. They embraced tanning as part of the experience but noted the need for a commitment to sun safety, including regular skin check-ups. 

A  recent survey indicated that a significant portion of young Australians prioritise aesthetic appeal over potential health risks, highlighting a concerning trend. Whilst sunscreen and skin protection have improved, tanning remains deeply ingrained in Australian culture. 

“Our bronze Aussie culture is actually killing us so we call on advertisers and social media influences stop glamorising tanning or using it to sell or advertise for entertainment,” Ms Long said in their acceptance speech.

“We must elevate sun safety to equal status with other life-saving safety measures like wearing a seatbelt or a helmet,” Mr Scolyer added.

Published 30-Jan-2024