Aboriginal communities

Aboriginal communities

Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples'* health is everyone's responsibility at Cancer Council Victoria.

Cancer Council Victoria works with Victoria's Aboriginal community to reduce the number of cancer diagnoses and cancer deaths. We do this through our cancer prevention and screening programs and by providing support services to people during their cancer journey.

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Cancer Council 13 11 20

Cancer Council Victoria's compassionate, professional cancer nurses are here to help with with any questions you've got about cancer and cancer treatment. They've all completed cultural safety training and you can call them for free, Monday to Friday, 9am - 5pm, on 13 11 20 or email them at askanurse@cancervic.org.au.

They can:

  • Connect you with cancer information and support services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • Help you to make choices about cancer treatment
  • Talk with you if you've got concerns about cancer coming back.

Anyone can chat with the nurses: families, friends, carers, people with cancer or cancer survivors.

Videos

In this video, local community members yarn about their cancer journeys. They talk about their own cancer experiences, or caring for someone with cancer, and share messages of strength and wisdom. (Please note this video contains footage of someone who has passed). 

In this video, community members and staff from VACCHO and Cancer Council Victoria talk about the success of their partnership.

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Support services

Financial assistance program

If you or your family are experiencing financial hardship following a cancer diagnosis, we can provide a small, one-off grant to help ease the pressure. Call 13 11 20 or email askanurse@cancervic.org.au

Professional help with legal, financial, HR and and small business matters

If you're in need of financial planning, legal advice, or guidance with work-related issues as a result of your cancer diagnosis, we can connect you with a professional for free advice. Please note eligibility criteria apply and you will be asked for some financial information to see if you are eligible; if you don't qualify, we can connect you with paid advice. Services include:

  • Financial planning service - help with superannuation, estate planning, Centrelink payments, debt management and more.
  • Legal referral service - advice on wills, power of attorney, employment and tenancy issues, mortgage hardship and other matters.
  • Workplace advice service - from how and when to tell your employer about your diagnosis to tips for getting back into the workforce after sick leave.
  • Small business advice service - qualified accountants can advise on tax issues, appointing a caretaker, business debts, sale of a business and assets, and other issues.

For more details, call 13 11 20 or email askanurse@cancervic.org.au.

Health professionals can access referral forms here.

Holiday Break Program

It can be difficult to afford a holiday after a cancer diagnosis. We can help by offering free accommodation for a short break for you and your family at a difficult time. The break can provide quality time with loved ones, away from hospitals and treatment. Holidays are within Victoria and can usually be offered reasonably close to home to minimise travel. Call 13 11 20 or email askanurse@cancervic.org.au for more information.

Wig Service

This free service is for men, women and children affected by hair loss due to cancer treatment. Select a wig of your choice and have it fitted by an experienced cancer nurse. If you're not able to come into our Melbourne office, we can post wigs out to you. To find out more, email askanurse@cancervic.org.au or call 13 11 20.

Living with Cancer Education Program

If you'd like to meet others facing cancer and get practical information from health professionals, come along to one of our Living with Cancer Education Programs. These free information and support sessions are held regularly in hospitals and treatment facilities across Victoria. You can expect an open and informal discussion in a friendly setting. Family and friends are encouraged to come along. Call 13 11 20 or email lwcep@cancervic.org.au to find out when there's a session on near you.

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Prevention programs

Our Aboriginal Cancer Prevention team has eight staff focusing on cancer screening and prevention activities with community.

 

The Team

Manager, Aboriginal Cancer Prevention Program Brad Brown – call 03 9514 6697

Quit Team:

Program Coordinator, Aboriginal Tobacco Control Jethro Calma-Holt – call 03 9514 6442
To contact one of the Aboriginal Quit Specialists (Tokerau, Tristan or Jamara) call 13 7848

Screening Team:

Screening Coordinator Clare O'Reilly – call 03 9514 6320
Project Officer Justine Holmes – call 03 9514 6414
Aboriginal Liaison Officer Robyn Bradley – call 03 9514 6547
HPV Vaccine Program Coordinator Heather O'Donnell – call 03 9514 6426

Cancer Screening

We work with community and health workers to increase their awareness of national cancer screening programs:

  • A Pap test every two years for women aged 18–70
  • A breast screen every two years for women aged 5074
  • An at-home bowel test every two years for men and women aged 5074

Activities include:

  • Professional development for GPs, nurses and Aboriginal Health Workers
  • Information and awareness sessions/events for community members
  • Aboriginal specific cancer screening resources
  • Media campaigns
  • Improving access to screening services, such as outreach and group bookings for breast screens
  • Having community champions talk about screening

PapScreen Victoria

PapScreen Victoria works across the state to increase knowledge and participation in Pap tests in the Aboriginal community. Activities include:

  • Supporting the delivery of the Great Walls of Vagina  a comedy developed for Aboriginal women across Victoria.
  • Partnering with Sisters Day Out to deliver the Great Walls of Vagina and having a screening stall to provide resources and answer screening questions.
  • Attending women's health days to talk about cancer screening.
  • Supporting Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations to improve Pap tests in the community.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) immunisation

Having three doses of the HPV vaccine greatly reduces your chances of getting genital cancers and genital warts. HPV protection through immunisation is really important for our people as we have higher rates of cervical cancer (caused by HPV) than non-Aboriginal people.

The HPV vaccine is offered free to all Victorian Year 7 boys and girls at school.

We are working with health and education workers to make it easier for Aboriginal teens and their families to know more about the HPV vaccine, and get the free vaccine either at school or through a community provider.

If you are unsure if you or your child has had the HPV vaccine, or completed all 3 doses, call the HPV register on 1800 478 734.

To see if the HPV vaccine is right for you, speak with your Aboriginal health worker, doctor or nurse, or get more information at www.hpvvaccine.org.au.

Aboriginal Quitline

Quitline has proven to be one of the most successful methods to support people to quit for good, and it is an increasingly popular support method for Aboriginal Victorians to cut down or quit.

Quitline has three Aboriginal Quit Specialists available to take calls from the Victorian Aboriginal community when you call 13 7848.

Tokerau, Tristan and Jamara are ready to listen to your story and have a yarn about how they can best support your journey to cut down or quit. The Quitline call back service is free – to have an Aboriginal Quit Specialist call you back, simply call or fill in some brief details on our Quitline callback page.

Quitline is a safe space to talk about smoking; everything yarned about on Quitline is strictly private and confidential.

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Information

Factsheets

Factsheet: What is cancer?

Information on cancer facts, cancer growth, the difference between benign and malignant tumours, and who to speak to.

Factsheet: Understanding cancer talk

A glossary of key words doctors may use about types of cancers, treatment, and the roles of different health professionals.

Factsheets: Treatment

Information and answers to common questions about the three main cancer treatment types:

Factsheets: Cancer types

Overviews of the five cancer types most likely to affect Aboriginal people:

Factsheet: Support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with cancer

This factsheet provides a brief overview of key support services available through Cancer Council Victoria. It was developed in response to community requests.

Supportive care pack: For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with cancer

This hard copy pack includes all the above factsheets, plus personal stories about cancer experiences and information about cancer prevention. You can order this free pack on our resource order page.

Handbook for health professionals: Lung Cancer in our mob

This Cancer Australia publication has been developed for health professionals working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to help prevent lung cancer, improve knowledge of the symptoms and support Indigenous people through the lung cancer treatment pathway. You can download a pdf or order a copy at the Cancer Australia website.

Brochures and posters

We've created a series of brochures and posters targeted to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women:

Web resources

These websites provide information relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

 

Statistics

Aboriginal people experience poorer cancer outcomes than non-Aboriginal Victorians and we are committed to changing this. Our commitments are set out in our Reconciliation Action Plan and our Memorandum of Understanding with the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Heath Organisation.

Each year 50 Aboriginal Victorians die from cancer. Each year 110 Aboriginal Victorians are diagnosed with cancer Mortality rates are significantly higher than for non-Aboriginal Victorians.

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Commitment

Cancer Council Victoria's Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) (pdf, 9.7Mb)  reflects the organisation's commitment to acknowledging and respecting Australia's First Peoples and traditional owners of the land and waters; and the recognition of their loss of land, children and families, languages and health.

The RAP provides a framework in which Cancer Council will continue to build relationships, demonstrate respect and create opportunities for Victorian Aboriginal communities.

We will do this through embedding existing activities, increasing efforts and identifying opportunities in research, prevention, support, fundraising, advocacy and organisational activities to support Aboriginal people.

Reconciliation is an essential element of who we are and what we aim to achieve as an organisation. This is reflected in our core values, and our commitment to Closing the Gap and to diversity, in order to deepen respect and to provide greater opportunities for Aboriginal people.

Reducing the prevalence, impact and morbidity related to cancer for Victorian Aboriginal communities is a priority for Cancer Council Victoria and to assist us in this work we have partnered with the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO). In September 2011 a Memorandum of Understanding was developed between VACCHO and Cancer Council Victoria. The two organisations signed a revised MOU (pdf 6.1Mb) in 2015. The MOU underpins the work of the two organisations to achieve this common goal.

Artwork by Dixon Patten

Cancer Council Victoria commissioned Dixon Patten Jnr, a Yorta Yorta and Gunnai man to develop a piece of Aboriginal art depicting the cancer journey. This artwork is now proudly displayed in the foyer of our building. Read our full artwork description.


* Where the term Aboriginal is used in this document, it is inclusive of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

Updated: 02 Sep, 2016