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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

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.


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 people who have passed). 

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

In this video, toilet humour is performed alongside important lessons about cancer prevention in a stand-up comedy show for the Victorian Koori community by Denise McGuinness, 2010 Deadly Funny winner.

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Support services

Financial counselling program

If you or your family are experiencing financial hardship following a cancer diagnosis, our financial counsellor can provide you with practical advice and guidance to help you manage the cost of cancer.

Our financial counsellor can answer questions around public and private healthcare, out-of-pocket costs, government benefits, superannuation, insurance, credit and debt issues and can even be a direct advocate with creditors where needed.

Contact our cancer nurses on 13 11 20 to find out more. Some criteria applies. It’s confidential, independent and free for all Victorians.

Other services that may be of assistance:

Provides information on where to get help if you're in crisis or struggling to make ends meet.

Financial Rights Legal Centre
Is a community legal centre specialising in financial services, particularly in the areas of consumer credit, banking, debt recovery and insurance.

Legal Support Program

Our Legal Support Program provides practical legal support services to Victorians with advanced cancer. Legal support is confidential and provided free to eligible Victorians, in partnership with participating Victorian law firms.

Services include:

Basic Wills

A Will is a legal document that explains what you want to do with your property and belongings after you die. A basic Will is right for people with straightforward and uncomplicated circumstances such as leaving your entire estate to your spouse.

We are unable to provide complex Wills involving trusts, businesses, overseas assets, and complicated family situations. If your circumstances are complex, you will not be eligible or may be asked to pay for the preparation of the Will by the law firm.

Powers of attorney

A legal document allows you to choose who will make decisions about financial and personal matters if you are not able to make these decisions yourself.

Medical treatment decision maker

A legal document that identifies the person you choose to make medical treatment decisions for you when you’re no longer able to do so.

Health professionals can access referral forms here.

Managing Cancer workshops

If you'd like to meet others facing cancer and get practical information from health professionals, come along to one of our Managing Cancer workshops . These free information and support sessions are held regularly in hospitals and health services  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 to find out when there's a session on near you.


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Prevention programs

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

The Team

Quit Team:

To contact one of the Aboriginal Quitline counsellors (Jamara or Glen) call 13 7848

Screening, Early Detection and Immunisation Team:

Aboriginal Liaison Officer – call 03 9514 6396

Cancer screening

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

  • A Cervical Screening Test every five years for women aged 2574
  • 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

Human papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation

Having all doses of the HPV vaccine greatly reduces your chances of 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 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

Quit Victoria

Quit Victoria works across the state to reduce smoking rates in the Aboriginal community and creating important partnerships with local organisations. Some activities include:

  • Improving smokefree policies
  • Training for providing brief advice to clients
  • Sharing evidence-based best practice
  • Promoting local activities and achievements
To find out more contact Glen on 9514 6113.


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 Aboriginal Quitline counsellors available to take calls from the Victorian Aboriginal community when you call 13 7848.

Jamara and Glen 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 Quitline counsellor 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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Developed in consultation with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, the guides below explain what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients should expect when they have, or might have, cancer.

Checking for cancer – What to expect

This information is for people who might have cancer, and explains what to expect while you’re getting checked out.

Cancer – What to expect

This information explains what to expect before, during and after your cancer treatment, and tells you about the care you should be offered.

Resources for health services and health professionals

The Optimal Care Pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with cancer provides health services and health professionals across all sectors in Australia with principles and guidance to ensure that care is culturally safe and responsive to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.


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 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.

Factsheet: Help getting to treatment

This brochure provides tips for getting to and from treatment using your own car or using community transport.

Factsheet: Help with money

The brochure provides tips for help with money problems.

Factsheet: How can I help?

This factsheet provides tips for supporting family or friends with cancer.

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.

Handbook for health professionals: Breast cancer - A handbook for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers and practitioners

Cancer Australia has updated its Breast Cancer Handbook in consultation with Indigenous health experts and leaders. The Handbook provides information on breast cancer detection, diagnosis, treatment and support. It also includes advice on supporting social and emotional wellbeing, palliative care, and breast cancer in men. Download the PDF here.

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.



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 (pdf, 6.28Mb) 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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Cancer Council Victoria's Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) (pdf, 6.28Mb)  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.