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Throughout this eBulletin we use the term Aboriginal Western Australians to include also people of Torres Strait Islander descent.
Welcome to the fourth edition of 'Let's Talk' for 2016!
'Let's Talk' is published quarterly for Aboriginal health professionals and those working with Aboriginal communities who are proudly leading the way to a cancer-free future in WA. It has up-to-date information on Aboriginal cancer education and research programs, Aboriginal cancer events, cancer issues, trends and cancer support services available in Western Australia.
Supporting Aboriginal Western Australians through their cancer experience
Being diagnosed with cancer is a life changing event that can cause distress not only to the person with cancer but to their loved ones and extended family.  At Cancer Council WA our Cancer Information and Support Services team are 100 percent focused on providing information and programs that not only ease the burden but empower those affected by cancer to get involved and take control of their cancer care.

Understanding the needs of individuals affected by cancer has been made easier with the introduction of screening tools for distress; however in recent years it has been found that these tools are not always appropriate for all cultural backgrounds. In 2014-15 Cancer Council WA was involved in a research project with Menzies School of Health in establishing the validity of a specific Aboriginal screening tool to better measure unmet supportive care needs. It is hoped that through this work health professionals will be able to better meet the needs of Aboriginal cancer patients and their families. For more information on the study go to
Menzies School of Health Research.

Our confidential 13 11 20 Cancer Information and Support line is available to Aboriginal Western Australians Monday to Friday during business hours. Staffed by experienced cancer nurses, 13 11 20 is our gateway to all Cancer Council WA services. Nurses are available to patients, families, health professionals and the general public and can provide information and support including managing the health system, treatment decision making, supporting children and families, support for those living in regional and remote WA, as well as access to our programs including financial, legal and practical assistance. For an up to date list of current programs and more information visit Cancer Council WA’s website  or call 13 11 20 for information and support.

Understanding cancer can sometimes be a difficult journey and culturally specific information has now been made available.  Cancer Councils and Menzies School of Health Research in conjunction with a Clinical Advisory Group and an Indigenous Consultation Group have collaboratively produced detailed fact sheets about cancer for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. These short fact sheets provide the basics of what is cancer, information on cancer types as well as fact sheets for cancer treatments. All can be downloaded from the
Cancer Council WA website.

Although we have made some gains in supportive care for Aboriginal cancer patients we know there is still much more to achieve. In 2017 Cancer Council WA will be making Aboriginal Cancer Care an election priority, advocating for the integration of the recommendations from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cancer Framework launched in 2015 into the next state cancer plan  as well as the commitment to introduce 2 Cancer Nurse Coordinators dedicated to Aboriginal cancer care to the WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network. 

These initiatives will go a long way to advancing access and quality cancer care to Aboriginal cancer patients and their families.
Sandra McKiernan
Cancer Information and Support Services Director
Cancer Council WA
Aboriginal Health Professional Profile: Leanne Pilkington

(Photo: Leanne Pilkington, Aboriginal Program Officer, BreastScreen WA (left) pictured with Deborah Woods, Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service)
We’d like to introduce Leanne Pilkington; a Nyoongar woman from Pinjarra, WA who has been the Aboriginal Program Officer at BreastScreen WA (BSWA) for 11 years.  A big part of her job is yarning with Aboriginal women and Aboriginal health professionals (APHs) state-wide about breast cancer, screening and awareness.

When she first started with BSWA many Aboriginal people had little knowledge about cancer, including breast cancer, unless they or someone close to them had personally experienced it. There also seemed to be a lack of information in the Aboriginal community about different cancers, the causes, risk factors or symptoms and very little knowledge about the importance of screening. Often what people thought they ‘knew’ about cancer was wrong. Sometimes it was because doctors and other health professionals didn’t explain cancer screening, diagnosis and treatments clearly to patients and their family is causing misinformation and fear. So many patients and their families had (and still have) no idea what support is out there and how to access it.

When the idea of a cancer course for Aboriginal health professionals first came about, Leanne was excited to be invited onto the Aboriginal Advisory Group and to contribute to developing it and being a part of the first pilot course. “It’s well known that Aboriginal health workers are often the first people clients turn to for information so it is very important that they have accurate and up-to-date knowledge about cancer” says Leanne.  She continues to be a part of the Aboriginal cancer course by presenting to the AHPs who attend.  

During her time with BSWA, Leanne has had the chance to talk to many women and health professionals about cancer and received much feedback about how health services can improve their care for Aboriginal cancer patients. Some non-Aboriginal health professionals are not aware of the diversity of Aboriginal culture and treat Aboriginal clients with a “one size fits all” approach. Some don’t realise that ‘accessibility’ is more than just making the service available.

When Leanne has provided cultural awareness training and other local, State and National presentations to non-Aboriginal health professionals, she has always stressed that no matter how good your service to Aboriginal people is, it can always be improved and highlight ways for them to do so.

You can contact Leanne at BreastScreen WA on (08) 9323 6709 or email at

The next Aboriginal health professional story is a surprise so keep on the lookout in 2017.

 If you would like to submit a profile for this section of the eBulletin, please refer to our
Contribution Guidelines.
Cancer Council WA's first Reconciliation Action Plan released
It is with great pleasure that we announce the launch of our Reconciliation Action Plan on Monday 14 November 2016.

Our first Reflect
Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) is a significant step forward in the fight to reduce the incidence and impact of cancer in Aboriginal communities.

Shockingly, cancer death rates are 30% higher for Aboriginal people than other Australians. In some remote areas, that rate is as high as 65%. We absolutely need to change this.

Our RAP outlines our commitment to continue to lead a community effort to improve the quality of life and cancer outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Achieving the deliverables set out in our first RAP relies on the combined effort of the entire organisation so if you were unable to attend the launch, please take some time to review the RAP and download a copy

For more information about our Reconciliation Action Plan please don't hesitate to contact Louise De Busch, Aboriginal Projects Officer on 9388 4382 or
Mandurah Aboriginal artist wins state-wide art competition

(Photo: Artist Meena (Peta Ugle) artwork will be used across the Cancer Council WA's Reconciliation Action Plan)

Cancer Council WA is pleased to announce that Mandurah Aboriginal artist Meena (Peta Ugle) has won a statewide competition as part of a new initiative to improve Cancer Council WA resources for Aboriginal peoples.

Meena's artwork has been re-created on the cover of
Cancer Council WA’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) launched on  14 November 2016.

Meena said she is pleased the story she wants to tell through her artwork will be used to help people work together on this important issue.

“I hope eventually fewer Aboriginal people will have to go through what my family had to go through as a result of cancer,” she said. 

The artwork will also be used on a range of Cancer Council WA Aboriginal resources which Meena said is significant because it makes the material feel like “it belongs to us”.

Cancer Council WA President Professor George Yeoh congratulated Peta on her win and said the RAP demonstrated Cancer Council WA’s commitment and determination to reduce the incidence and impact that cancer has in Aboriginal communities.

Professor Yeoh said there was no doubt that cancer is a significant factor in understanding why Aboriginal Australians can expect to live 10-15 years less than non-Aboriginal Australians.

“We believe our RAP will provide renewed energy to help drive our programs and initiatives across WA and most importantly, allow us to lead a community effort to work together to improve the quality of life and cancer outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” he said.
2016 Aboriginal Community Connections

Again this year, we want to continue celebrating our work with Reconciliation Australia with the official launch of our inaugural Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) in an effort to strengthen our connections with Aboriginal communities.  As a stepping stone towards building trust and understanding with our communities, we have been doing a lot of work behind the scenes and would like to acknowledge the valuable connections we’ve made over the past 12 months. 

We look forward to building many more and strong relationships and will continue our work with your community to reduce the incidence and impact of cancer throughout 2017.  
Thank you for working with us!

Spreading the word about breast screening

(Photo: Margarette Fisher, an Ngarrindjeri woman facilitator of Derbarl’s Aboriginal cancer support group)
Margarette Fisher, a Ngarrindjeri woman who lives in Perth, has facilitated a small Aboriginal cancer support group for the past four years. She is also a specialist coordinator at Derbarl Yerrigan Health Centre. She has seen first-hand the effects that breast cancer has had on her family, group members and the wider community.
She encourages women to get regular breast screens by mammogram every two years from because it can pick up abnormalities before people can feel them or notice any symptoms.
The BreastScreen van travels to communities and various locations, including Derbarl Yerrigan, every two years. Margarette says that some women get shame or feel uncomfortable about getting their breasts screened but afterwards feel happy to have had their mammogram done.
BreastScreen Australia invites all women aged 50 to 74 for free breast screening.  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women can get a free BreastScreen test every two years, which is the best way to detect breast cancer early.
Call 13 20 50 and make an appointment at your nearest BreastScreen Australia clinic, or visit one of the mobile clinics when it comes to your community.
For more information visit BreastScreen Australia or call 13 20 50.
Our Lungs Our Mob and Women's Business Workshops delivered in WA communities

(Picture: Various health agencies visited)

Throughout May and August 2016, Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia (AHCSA) on behalf of Cancer Australia visited various health services across Western Australia.
The purpose was to deliver Our Lungs Our Mob and Women’s Business workshops to Aboriginal communities across Western Australia. The workshops were quite successful with 6 different communities visited with a welcoming reception at each site. These community visits have opened up discussions where most times a delicate subject, (The Big C Word) is okay to talk about.
AHCSA had fantastic engagement at each site we visited and was eager to help support the program and workshop delivery. Many positive connections and experiences were made in the process, with participants always keen to know more information on both topics.

The Women’s Business resource has been developed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers and health professionals working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to conduct Women’s Business workshops with community members. The workshop promotes the importance of awareness and early detection of breast and gynaecological cancers.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers are in an ideal position to promote strategies which can reduce the incidence of cancer and improve survival outcomes for people with cancer.
Women’s Business Workshops specifically aim to increase understanding among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women around screening for breast and cervical cancer as well as awareness of changes in their body which could be due to breast cancer or gynaecological cancers. The workshops involved a 'storytelling and face-to-face' approach to delivering important awareness and early detection messages.

Our Lungs Our Mob resource has been designed to support health workers and health practitioners to conduct ‘Our lungs Our Mob’ workshops for community members to increase awareness of the symptoms of lung cancer and the benefits of diagnosis at an earlier stage. It is not a ‘quit smoking’ workshop; however it is important for community to know that choosing to quit smoking can reduce their risk of getting many cancers, including lung cancer. The earlier lung cancer is found, the better survival is likely to be. The workshops include informal yarning as a way to share knowledge and information about cancer.

To view other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cancer resources, please visit
(Picture: Women's Business Workshop in Perth)
(Picture: Our Lungs Our Mob Workshop in Broome)
(Picture: Our Lungs Our Mob and Women's Business Group in Bunbury)
Cancer awareness discussed on Noongar Radio

(Picture: Special guest, Natasha Kickett sharing her inspirational story of recovery from cervical cancer)

Daffodil Day 2016 was held Friday 26 August and cancer awareness was the topic of the week on Health Matters. The vibrant yellow daffodil represents hope and a continuing fight against cancer.

Leanne Pilkington from BreastScreen WA was joined by Stacey-Mae Prokopyszyn from WA Cervical Cancer Prevention Program as they shared the latest information on breast and cervical cancer awareness, screening and busted myths.

Later in the program Violet Platt from the Department of Health was joined by Louise De Busch from Cancer Council WA and the discussion turned to lung and bowel cancer and the support available to patients in WA. 

Special Guest Natasha Kickett also shared her inspirational story of recovery from cervical cancer.

Find the link to the full podcast on the
Department of Health News page.

If you would like more information, please contact our Aboriginal Projects Officer, Louise De Busch on 9388 4382 or email

Haircut for cancer to start the conversation across Aboriginal communities

(Picture: Louise De Busch, Aboriginal Projects Officer at Cancer Council WA and Helen Green at
Wadjak Northside Community Centre in Balga)

Helen Green graduated as a registered nurse in 2014 and is now working towards becoming a comprehensive cancer nurse.  She is incredibly passionate about her work and decided to help us raise vital funds to support all West Australians affected by cancer.  In particular, Helen is interested in our work with Aboriginal communities and our commitment to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Western Australians.

Helen made the brave decision to chop off her ponytail to raise funds through her Do It For Cancer page 'Hellz the cancer 'cure'sader'.  Helen hopes that her big chop will help to generate discussion about cancer in the community.

"The haircut basically was just to start the conversation and essentially keep the conversation going after the event," she said.

 "With all the different health issues going on in society, cancer has become a bit of a norm but we really do need to raise the issue and start early screening."

Helen was inspired to fundraise and help spread hope after losing a friend to cancer.

"I have had family members and good friends diagnosed with cancer and there are more success stories in cancer than there are fatalities, which people need to understand – it is not a death sentence if you hear the 'big C'," she said.

Helen raised a magnificent $755 for Cancer Council WA in the lead up to her big ponytail chop on Thursday 13 October!  If you would like to support Helen and help her reach her fundraising goal of $5,000 you can make a donation via her Do It For Cancer page here​.

Merry Christmas from Cancer Council WA

Picture: A special Merry Christmas cheer from Cancer Council WA's Education and Research Division team!

Merry Christmas from Cancer Council WA!  We wish you all a safe and joyous festive season with family and friends!

Christmas & New Year Office Closures
With the exception of the Cancer Council shop, Crawford and Milroy Lodges and Cancer Nurses, our offices will close from 12pm on Friday 23 December 2016 to 8.30am on Tuesday 3 January 2017.
Submit an article
We invite past course participants of the Cancer Council WA Aboriginal Cancer Education Course and health services / organisation / departments working with Aboriginal Western Australians to submit contributions for publication in this bulletin.  Articles and events that pertain to cancer control and support are most welcome.

If anyone would like to submit an article for the next bulletin, 
please refer to our Contribution Guidelines and email by Friday 20 January 2017.
Email us
Our next edition is due in March 2017!

Cancer Council Western Australia acknowledges the traditional Aboriginal owners of country throughout Western Australia and pay our respect to them, their culture and their Elders past and present.

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