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Working together to improve Aboriginal cancer outcomes

The upcoming Innovation in Cancer Treatment and Care conference will showcase the work of a team of health workers based in the Murrumbidgee, who are working to reduce cancer mortality among Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people.




Artist: Stewart James, Narrandera*

The 'Working Together' project team is determined to increase the number of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people accessing cancer services within Southern NSW.

"The team uses consultation, outreach, training and education initiatives in the hope of improving access and use of cancer services by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people," said Victoria Jones, leader of the award winning Aboriginal Health and Cancer Services - Working Together project.

The team works with the area's Aboriginal Health Manager and local health care workers, taking a collaborative approach to cancer services and care in their local community.

"It has also been vital to work with Aboriginal Elders, health workers and community members at every stage of the project. Within overarching principles of respect and commitment, we work with every community differently according to local conditions and guided by local people," says Victoria.

The result, she says, has been a mutual trust between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities that she hopes will inspire other health professionals across NSW to take a more collaborative and united approach to improving cancer outcomes in Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities.

"These relationships take time, patience, commitment and humility.  Getting the process right is critical in order to work towards better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people."

Victoria and her team presented at the recent Innovation in Cancer Treatment and Care NSW conference on Friday 7 September.

*About the artwork

The kangaroo is recognised by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people and is found throughout Australia. It is a national and international symbol.

The colours of brown and white and all of the tones in between are used throughout the painting to represent Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. The circles with horseshoe shapes are camps/meeting places. There is an Aboriginal camp/meeting place and non-Aboriginal cancer services camp/meeting place, where people sit and talk.

There are Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal footprints that move in and out of both camps/meeting places. This represents Aboriginal people going to cancer services and cancer services going to Aboriginal people and the line running diagonally signifies how cancer can fracture people's lives and communities.

The dot circles in the corners represent the opening up and sharing of Aboriginal culture.

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