Today is the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. It is a day pronounced by the United Nations to raise awareness and protect the rights of the world's indigenous population.
In 2016, an estimated 798,400 Australians identified as Indigenous (3.3% of the total Australian population), according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders are the holders of a diversity of unique cultures, traditions, languages, and knowledge systems.
Sadly, the life expectancy at birth for Indigenous Australians was estimated to be eight years lower than non-Indigenous Australians (AIHW 2019). Breast cancer is the most common cancer for Aboriginal women, and Aboriginal women typically screen at lower rates than the general population.
This year's theme is "Leaving no one behind: Indigenous peoples and the call for a new social contract." But what does it mean?
The number of Aboriginal women who have regular breast screens continues to rise each year. We want to increase screening rates even more by ensuring our services are accessible, culturally appropriate and welcoming. Including Aboriginal community participation and control around health service delivery is essential to breast screening more Aboriginal women. That's why we partnered with the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS) in 2018 to develop the Aboriginal Breast Screening Shawl Trial, which later went on to become The Beautiful Shawl Project.
This year, we're excited to visit ten ACCOs and bring breast screening to more Aboriginal women. In August 2021, The Beautiful Shawl Project will be returning to Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative (Warrnambool), Kirrae Health Service (Purnim), Dhauwurd-Wurrung Elderly & Community Health Service (Portland) and Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation (Heywood).
Since 2018, The Beautiful Shawl Project has reached over 350 Aboriginal women who screened with a cultural screening shawl from their community.