Working with Aboriginal communities

Promoting healthy lifestyles and participation in cancer screening is an important role for primary care services.


We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the countries throughout NSW and Australia, and recognise the continuing connection to land, waters and culture. We pay our respects to all Elders, past and present.  


Aboriginal people are the first peoples of Australia and have strong cultures and communities. The Cancer Institute NSW is committed to achieving health equity for Aboriginal peoples in NSW and to ensuring services respond to the needs and aspirations of Aboriginal people. 

Aboriginal people and cancer 

Every day around five Aboriginal people are diagnosed with cancer. Aboriginal people have a slightly higher rate of cancer diagnosis, tend to get cancer at an earlier age and are approximately 40 per cent more likely to die from cancer than non-Aboriginal people.1,2   

Primary care practitioners play an important role in cancer control and are well placed (through ACCHO’s or mainstream GP practices) to promote healthy lifestyles to reduce cancer risk, encourage regular population cancer screening, manage tests/referrals for people with possible cancers and support patients through their diagnosis/treatment and afterwards.  

Aboriginal Health Check

Aboriginal people can access a 715-health check funded by Medicare (MBS item 715) every nine months. These checks are free at Aboriginal Medical Services and general practice bulk-billing clinics. 

Providing health assessments for Aboriginal people and incorporating prevention and cancer screening into health assessment templates is an important step in supporting improved cancer screening participation and healthy lifestyle choices. 

See further module information on patient centred care for Aboriginal communities

Helpful resources

  • Ngununggula - Walking and Working Together: A manual for health professionals supporting Aboriginal people with Cancer - Developed by The Illawarra Aboriginal Medical Service. This project has been a collaboration between the AH&MRC, University of Sydney (Michelle Dickson), UOW, and Menzies SHR and Coordinare PHN, and funded by Cancer Australia. 
    View more
  • RACGP Resource Hub - Supporting effective, culturally safe primary healthcare.
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The following resources maybe useful to support cancer screening and prevention activities when using Communicare Software: 

National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP)    

  • The NBCSP website provides a comprehensive range of culturally appropriate educational and promotional materials for health professionals and communities.  

  • A community education flip chart to assist health workers to talk with Aboriginal people about bowel cancer and bowel cancer screening.   

Cancer Institute NSW  

  • Do the test webpage – provides culturally appropriate information for including personal story videos  

Primary Care Cancer Control Quality Improvement Toolkit

Information on BreastScreen NSW's 'PUTUWA' pilot project

Aboriginal women are diagnosed at an earlier age and with more advanced breast cancers. BreastScreen NSW is delivering a pilot project in 2022 to engage Aboriginal women aged 40-49 years in breast screening. Key messages will be updated to general practice to support the implementation of the pilot which will involve active recruitment of Aboriginal women from 40 years.


1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2019. Cancer in Australia 2019. Cancer series no.119. Cat. no. CAN 123. Canberra: AIHW. 

2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2018. Cancer in Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people of Australia. Accessed August 2022.