Sharing the stories of First Peoples

Everyone who is diagnosed with breast cancer may face challenges, but some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples experience additional barriers such as accessing the best possible information, treatment and care. BCNA is determined to help change this.

In 2018, we travelled across Australia to understand the impact of breast cancer and we heard directly from people who identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander about the additional barriers they face.

We shared our findings in the State of the Nation report, which highlighted the disparity of care and outcomes for our First Peoples. It showed that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer but, once diagnosed, are more likely to die from breast cancer compared with non-Indigenous women. They are also less likely to participate in breast screening and more likely to feel culturally isolated in hospitals and clinics.

These findings continue to drive BCNA’s purpose and commitment to do better for our First Peoples.

Our conversations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are ongoing as we work together to address the specific needs and concerns of First Peoples.* Our First Peoples Advisory Group – comprising members from around Australia who have a lived experience of breast cancer – provide their feedback, cultural guidance and recommendations. With their input, we are ensuring that we provide specific and relevant information and support services for those who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.

First Peoples Advisory Group member Aunty Pam Pedersen is a Yorta Yorta Elder and passionate about helping BCNA ensure her people have access to the support they want.

‘I love being involved. I can’t do enough … I must bring in Aboriginal people so BCNA can help them as well. It’s important to learn about our culture and the things we face. The most important thing is that our people need to feel culturally safe.’

First Peoples Advisory Group Member Leah Lindrea-Morrison agrees.

‘Our Aboriginal community is really important because we can support each other, we know each other and it’s important that we share information. However, it’s important we do it in the right way as some people may not want people to know. I think BCNA bringing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women together is fantastic as we can share our journeys and support each other.’

Hearing about the experience of others is crucial – for those going through a similar experience and for us here at BCNA – so we can understand the experiences of all Australians. Last year, BCNA invited a group of First Peoples to a yarning circle in Townsville. This included people who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and the healthcare professionals who care for them.

The yarn focused on the support and information that may be beneficial to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have experienced a breast cancer diagnosis, and how this would be provided.

According to BCNA Project Officer Emily Darnett, using a collaborative approach is key.

‘Since colonisation, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have consistently been asked to adapt and assimilate to this westernised world introduced by the settlers. BCNA is changing this approach by embracing the strengths of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture to understand how we can adapt our content to better meet the needs of these communities,’ she says.

We are pleased to soon be launching new content featuring the voices and experiences of First Peoples, including:

  • Tailored information on My Journey, including a welcome video featuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who have had breast cancer
  • A suite of videos in which First Peoples share their stories and experiences of breast cancer. The videos – with themes such as family and support, connection to culture, and questions to ask your health care professionals – complement our written content.

We continue to represent First Peoples through our campaigns, online events and media activities as another way to ensure no one feels alone while experiencing breast cancer.

By harnessing the strength of our network, we will keep sharing the diverse experiences of all people affected by breast cancer and strive to improve the experiences and outcomes for our First Peoples and their communities.

* BCNA uses the collective term First Peoples to refer to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, while also acknowledging the unique differences between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, culture, traditions and ceremonies.


Upfront about Breast Cancer podcast: Navigating a breast cancer diagnosis as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander

First Peoples Online Network Group

My Journey

Issue 90
Autumn 2022