Aboriginal communities

The Cancer Institute NSW acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the first peoples of this country and pays its respect to Elders, past, present and emerging.

The NSW Cancer Plan aims to improve cancer outcomes across the state. It recognises there are people and communities who have a higher risk of cancers and have poorer cancer-related health outcomes.

We recognise that Aboriginal people experience a higher burden of cancer with higher mortality rates.[1] We understand the importance of incorporating social and cultural determinants of health when developing programs of work with Aboriginal communities.

Key facts

Key facts

  • Between 2009 and 2013, Indigenous Australians were 1.1 times more likely to be diagnosed with cancer, compared with non-Indigenous Australians.[2]
  • Between 2011 and 2015, Indigenous Australians were 1.4 times more likely to die from cancer, compared with non-Indigenous Australians.[2]
  • Between 2007 and 2014, Indigenous Australians had, on average, a 50 per cent chance of surviving five years after a cancer diagnosis, compared with 65 per cent for non-Indigenous Australians.[2]

Achievement through collaboration

Improving the health of Aboriginal communities in relation to cancer requires collaboration from all parts of the cancer control system.

In partnership with the Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council, we made a commitment to develop a NSW Aboriginal Cancer Strategy. This strategy will be co-designed with key Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal stakeholders to identify strategic priorities for Aboriginal cancer control in NSW.

We will continue to enhance our partnerships with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and Aboriginal communities across the state. Our strategies will be implemented in line with state and national plans, frameworks and other NSW Health policy directives relevant to Aboriginal health.

NSW Aboriginal Cancer Strategic Partnerships and Performance Committee

The NSW Aboriginal Cancer Strategic Partnerships and Performance Committee has been established to oversee the development, implementation and evaluation of a NSW Aboriginal Cancer Strategy which will identify strategic priorities for Aboriginal people under the NSW Cancer Plan.

The Committee consists of senior decision makers from the Cancer Institute NSW, the Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council of NSW, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and key government and non-government organisations. It provides a forum to ensure strategic priorities and actions for Aboriginal cancer control are informed by, and developed in partnership with, Aboriginal people.

What we are achieving for Aboriginal communities

We are working across cancer prevention, screening, early detection, diagnosis, treatment and research to improve cancer outcomes for Aboriginal people. Over the past 12 months, we have achieved the following:

Reconcilliation Action Plan
Implemented the Cancer Institute NSW Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan

The Institute's Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) demonstrates our commitment to reconciliation by creating meaningful opportunities for staff and members of the community. It aims to strengthen respect and understanding between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and other Australians, and will support the delivery of equitable and safe cancer services for Aboriginal communities in NSW. A revised RAP is being prepared for implementation in 2021.

Developed the NSW Aboriginal Scoping Paper and the NSW Aboriginal Cancer Governance and Engagement Framework

The NSW Aboriginal Scoping Paper is a review of how the entire health sector can work collaboratively to make real and lasting changes to planning, delivery and evaluation of cancer care for Aboriginal people.

The paper summarises the current policy context, recent literature and feedback from stakeholder consultations in recent years. It aims to inform and shape a strategic, planned and coordinated approach to improving cancer outcomes for Aboriginal people in NSW.

The NSW Aboriginal Cancer Governance and Engagement Framework supports how we will implement a collaborative approach to improving cancer outcomes for Aboriginal people in NSW. Aboriginal leadership and engagement is critical to achieving meaningful and lasting improvements in cancer outcomes for Aboriginal people. 

The Framework has been designed, refined and agreed in partnership with the Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council of NSW and key Aboriginal stakeholders.

Supporting cancer prevention, screening and treatment pathways
  • We continue to engage with Aboriginal ambassadors to support the delivery of cancer screening, early detection and prevention campaigns. 

 

 

  • We engaged with Aboriginal women and made a video about the importance of regular breast screening, highlighting that women can now book their free mammogram online.

 

 

  • We established the NSW Aboriginal Cervical Screening Network, for partnership development, engagement, support and resource sharing. Membership includes over 200 women’s health nurses, practice nurses, service and program managers; approximately 15% of which identify as Aboriginal Health Workers. It also includes practitioners, service and program managers or coordinators across local health districts, primary health networks and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services. 
  • We continue to work with representatives from the Aboriginal community to develop culturally appropriate information resources to support the Aboriginal population, such as fact sheets, brochures and flyers.
  • We have developed a dedicated web page for Aboriginal communities to support the Do the Test bowel cancer screening campaign.
  • We promoted Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations and Aboriginal Medical Services on Canrefer.
  • We have expanded our Patient Information to include specific information for Aboriginal population about their cancer care needs.
  • We developed brochures for the Aboriginal community that explain the lung cancer pathway (Finding lung cancer and Having lung cancer).
Finding lung cancer brochure. An information booklet for an Aboriginal audience.
Having lung cancer brochure. An information booklet for an Aboriginal audience.
 
Supporting Aboriginal communities to improve cancer control
 
  • We continue to fund grants to address tobacco use; raise awareness and increase cancer screening rates; and increase engagement with the Aboriginal community about cancer services. Read more about our Innovations in Cancer Control Grants.
     


 

  • We continue to deliver the NSW/ACT Aboriginal Quitline. The service now includes a male advisor and a female advisor who is available to work with pregnant Aboriginal women.
  • We manage the Koori Quitline Facebook page to engage with communities and encourage people to seek support to quit smoking. This page uses community-generated content filmed at Aboriginal cultural events.



 

Engaging with Aboriginal communities to inform cancer control initiatives
  • We completed formative research with Aboriginal women to understand their cervical screening knowledge, attitudes and behaviours in response to changes to the National Cervical Screening Program. The study found limited awareness of the renewed cervical screening program and the role of cervical screening in cervical cancer prevention. These findings will inform future program activities and will be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

  • Our Aboriginal Cancer Advisory Group now combines the Aboriginal Advisory Group and Aboriginal Program Development Committee and is chaired in partnership with the Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council of NSW. The group provides advice on data for projects to ensure the cultural integrity of our work. This engagement ensures the Cancer Institute NSW remain a culturally safe and supportive organisation, and our contribution to the NSW Cancer Plan continues to be relevant and effective for the Aboriginal community. 

National plans, policies and frameworks

State plans, policies and frameworks

State plans, policies and frameworks

In NSW, the two key plans that currently inform and shape how the health system and health services plan and deliver care and support for Aboriginal people in NSW are the NSW Cancer Plan and the NSW Aboriginal Health Plan 2013–2023.

We will continue to work with the Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council for our work at the state level. At the local level, we will collaborate with local health districts, primary health networks and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations.

NSW Cancer Plan initiatives for Aboriginal communities

Across each goal of the NSW Cancer Plan, specific initiatives have been developed to build on current relationships in partnership with Aboriginal communities, including:

  • public education campaigns and support services to reduce smoking
  • strategies to encourage participation in national cancer screening programs
  • strategies to more effectively engage with the primary health care sector
  • culturally appropriate early assessment, diagnosis, surveillance and treatment pathways
  • culturally appropriate tools and resources that support Aboriginal people affected by cancer
  • initiatives to better engage Aboriginal people in service planning and delivery
  • culturally appropriate methods of collecting patient-reported outcomes.

Progress of the NSW Cancer Plan is regularly monitored and evaluated. Find more information on the indicators used to track against the Plan's objectives.

References

1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare & Cancer Australia. Cancer in Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people of Australia. Canberra: AIHW, 2018. Available at https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/cancer/cancer-in-indigenous-australians/contents/cancer-type/cervical-cancer-c53 (accessed 1 November 2019).

2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: Cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia. Cat. no. CAN 109. Canberra, AIHW, 2018. Web report. [cited 20 September 2019]