Multicultural shawls come to Gippsland

Thanks to a partnership between Gippsland BreastScreen, Gippsland Women's Health and Gippsland Multicultural Service, a group of local women in Victoria's Gippsland region recently attended their first-ever breast screen in a culturally safe shawl.

The idea was inspired by the success of the award-winning Beautiful Shawl Project, an initiative run by BreastScreen Victoria and the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO). The Beautiful Shawl Project gives Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women a locally designed cultural screening shawl to wear during their breast screen and take home.

At Gippsland, the concept came from a community information session that encouraged women from all cultures and nationalities to learn about the breast screening program. Attendees painted their designs onto a collective canvas and then printed them on fabric to make shawls.

Those eligible to screen were invited to book into a group screening session where the shawls would be available to wear and take home. Gippsland BreastScreen was a hive of activity on the day of the group session. Thirteen people were screened on the day—all attending a language program together at the local TAFE.

Kelly Giersch, Program Manager at Gippsland BreastScreen, said it was great to see ladies of varying cultures come together to support one another through their screening process.

"We had clients from Thailand, Iran, Indonesia, Turkey, Sudan, South Sudan, Belarus, Serbia and China. A wonderful group of ladies filled the waiting room; they enjoyed a cup of tea, some laughs and the support of their new friends."

Melanie Brown, Manager of Health Promotion, Prevention of Violence at Gippsland Women's Health, shared the sentiment.

"From the moment they arrived, BreastScreen Traralgon actively engaged the women and provided a culturally safe space. Staff sought advice and guidance on empowering the women during the process while still supporting the varying levels of confidence with language," she said.

Initiatives like this multicultural shawl project work to ensure people from all cultural and linguistic backgrounds feel safe and welcome at our screening services across Victoria.

"We are looking forward to working with Gippsland Women's Health on more opportunities for women in the Gippsland region," Kelly said.