What is Relay For Life?

Relay For Life is a community fundraising challenge for Cancer Council NSW. Teams of friends, families, schools and colleagues raise money in the lead up to an overnight event, where team members take turns walking around a track to signify that cancer never rests, so neither do we. 

Organised by passionate, local volunteers, each Relay event is an experience that will stay with you forever. We host activities designed to celebrate Survivors and recognise their Carers. We honour those we’ve lost during our candlelight ceremony, and we continue to raise funds to support people affected by cancer, fund research and improve cancer prevention.

Almost 80,000 people, all across Australia, joined last year’s movement, with millions more around the world.

You can join the movement too. Here's what you can expect at your local Relay...

Where does the money go?

Relay For Life is a community fundraising challenge, with all funds raised going towards Australia’s leading cancer charity, Cancer Council. Underpinned by research, 61,000 Australian lives have been saved by improvements in cancer prevention, screening and treatment over the past 20 years. 

When you make a donation to Relay For Life, you are helping Cancer Council support families affected by cancer when they need it most, speak out on behalf of the community on cancer issues, empower people to reduce their cancer risk, and find new ways to better detect and treat cancer.


With your help, we’re getting closer to a cancer free future.

Myth: Relay For Life is a challenge event/running race
Fact: Relay For Life is not a race. Team members take turns walking on the track to signify that cancer never sleeps, so neither do we. You can take part however you like – walk, jog, run, wheel or dance around the track! Some individuals choose to set personal goals to remain on the track for a certain time or complete a set distance, but this is up to you!
Myth: All participants must stay on the track for the full 24 hours
Fact: Team members take turns walking the track, passing the baton to one another, with the aim of having at least one person from each team on the track at all times. We ask that team members try to stay at the track for as long as possible to support each other and share the Relay roster, particularly late at night.
Myth: You have to be part of a team to take part in Relay For Life
Fact: Individuals are welcome at Relay For Life! All you need to do is register as a Team Captain, creating your own personal team! When asked what your Team Goal is, you can simply nominate a personal target.
Myth: Cancer Council only raises money for cancer research
Fact: Cancer Council is the only organisation in Australia that works across every area of cancer, across all aspects of the cancer journey – from research and prevention, through to information, support services and advocacy programs.
Myth: All funds raised by Cancer Council NSW go back to Sydney
Fact: We work throughout metropolitan, regional, rural and remote NSW, so the money you raise will directly benefit your local community. Working in local communities means we can deliver programs and services that best meets the needs of each community. We also partner with community-based organisations and health services to support local communities. Scroll up to hear stories from people affected by cancer all across NSW.

From humble beginnings...

Relay For Life began in the USA in May 1985 when colorectal surgeon, Dr. Gordy Klatt, wanted to raise awareness of cancer and boost the income of his local cancer charity. He spent a gruelling twenty-four hours circulating a track in Tacoma, Washington, and raised over US$27,000, and showed that one person really can make a difference.

...to a global movement

Since then, Relay For Life has become the largest fundraising event for cancer in the world. In 2017 alone, Relay For Life was celebrated by more than 4 million people in 29 countries around the world, raising over $75 million in the fight against cancer.


Relay For Life began in Australia in 1999 when the Victorian community of Murrumbeena raised over $75,000 for Cancer Council. Relays are now held in every Australian State and Territory, with more than 134,000 participants raising over $14 million each year. Every dollar raised goes towards funding Cancer Council’s vital research, prevention and support programs, many of which help people in your community every day.