When life presents its challenges, people react in various ways. Some submit to fate, while others choose to take control, attempting to change it.

Among the latter is Betty Coracas, an Australian-Cypriot author, poet, children’s book illustrator, and self-taught artist, who is spearheading a significant initiative: the establishment of the organisation “Bags for Earth and Science Inc,” aiming to raise funds for important scientific research.

The inspiration behind the action

“The inspiration behind ‘Bags for Earth and Science’ initially came from my concern about the plastic bags ending up in our seas and oceans, causing negative impacts on the environment and ocean life. I was trying to think of ways to reduce or even eliminate their use,” Coracas tells Neos Kosmos.

It was 1998 when cancer entered her life, turning it upside down. She was diagnosed with breast cancer. A few years later, one of her elder sisters was diagnosed and underwent treatment for lymphoma, followed by even worse news.

In 2015, her 35-year-old nephew, Patrick, was diagnosed with late-stage brain cancer. Despite surgery to remove the tumour, it returned within the year, necessitating a second operation.

“The only lifeline was a trial chemotherapy drug costing $6,000 per session, and my nephew had no private health coverage,” says Coracas.

This personal encounter with the disease and the urgent need to raise money that would give hope to her nephew motivated her to take action, and she managed to raise $100,000, securing him three years of life.

As if that wasn’t enough, her sister Vicky was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer just two weeks before she and her husband (Patrick’s father) moved to Cyprus.

“Knowing that Professor Vasso Apostolopoulos and her team were working on a vaccine program for breast cancer and that my beloved sister could benefit from such a program by entering phase III trials, I set out to find a way to make it happen,” says Coracas.

Thus, the idea of creating an organisation that would seek to reduce the use of plastic bags, while also raising funds for cancer research, became a reality in the form of “Bags for Earth and Science Inc.”

“I am very determined that my initiative will have a direct positive impact on the breast cancer vaccine program and many other cancer research programs.”

Betty Coracas poses in front of the portrait of the late philanthropist, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, which she painted in 2007 for the Archibald Prize and with whom she shared a special friendship. In the coming months, her book titled “The Providential Portrait of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch” will be released, with part of the proceeds going towards the “Bags for Earth and Science Inc” initiative. Photo: Supplied

Environment and cancer

“The organisation has a dual goal: to protect the environment from the effects of plastic bags and to support science, particularly in the field of cancer treatment,” Coracas explains.

In her opinion, the relationship between the environment and cancer is complex.

“Anthropogenic climate change and pollution have been shown to be linked to an increase in cancer cases. The use of toxic substances and the uncontrolled use of chemicals in agriculture and industry have been shown to increase the risk of cancer,” she adds.

“Therefore, ‘Bags for Earth and Science Inc’ offers an innovative solution: replacing plastic bags with natural, sustainable alternatives, while also raising money for medical research for cancer. This dual goal encourages community and business participation in a joint effort for the health of the planet and its people.”

Development for the initiative

The company plans to take action in various ways. From attracting retail businesses to offer “Bags for Earth and Science Inc” bags to their customers as a reward for their purchases, to collaborating with government agencies for grants and involving school communities in educational programs and awareness campaigns.

“In this way, the organisation ‘Bags for Earth and Science Inc’ offers an innovative way of solidarity and philanthropy, protecting the environment and supporting scientific research for human and planetary health. Through social mobilization and cooperation, we can make a difference, one step at a time, towards a more sustainable and healthy world,” says Coracas.

“Our plans for fundraising include practices such as entering into agreements with international manufacturers for the production of bags and support from large retailers. In the future, we want to collaborate with local manufacturers to support the local market. The distribution of the bags will be exclusively through ‘Bags for Earth and Science Inc,’ and our logo will be trademarked.”


Coracas then refers to the “several” challenges that the “Bags for Earth and Science Inc” initiative faced at its inception.

“One of the biggest challenges was finding suitable candidates for the members of the founding committee, including the leadership roles of president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary. This difficulty was overcome by actively searching for suitable candidates, while the roles of president and the 5th member with a deciding vote were filled by experienced individuals. […] I am optimistic that the remaining roles of Vice President and Treasurer will be filled by members of our Greek community in Melbourne.”

What is needed for participation in the Committee is for interested parties to possess “wisdom, knowledge, and a big heart,” Coracas adds, but she also sets some additional criteria that will facilitate the team’s work.

“For the vice president, in particular, experience in public relations was important, while for the treasurer, a good knowledge of accounting and banking.”

Interested individuals and organisations can participate in or support “Bags for Earth and Science Inc” by sending their details via email, expressing their interest in becoming future members or volunteers.

Organisations can express their desire to support the “Bags for Earth and Science Inc”, either through sponsorships and donations, or by directly participating through the use of products and/or logo in their activities.

“Through the collaboration and support of these individuals and organisations, ‘Bags for Earth and Science Inc’ can achieve its goals of protecting the environment and promoting scientific research,” concludes Coracas.