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The Beautiful Shawl Project documentary available now

Three Aboriginal women on the coast wearing shawls.

Image (from L to R): Charmaine Clarke, Georgie Taylor, and Tanya Geier, Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative.

The Beautiful Shawl Project documentary is now available. 

The Beautiful Shawl Project is a collaborative, Community-led initiative that provides a safe and empowering breast screening experience for Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander women.

Working with eight Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) across the state and local Community artists, this project produced and provided customised screening shawls to Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander women that are culturally appropriate, familiar, and beautiful to wear during their screening.

The success of the project led to it being rolled out to other ACCO sites across Victoria. Late last year, BreastScreen Victoria's two mobile screening vans travelled to each Aboriginal community health hub to provide free and accessible screens.

The experience was very positive. 82% of women agreed that the shawl made them feel culturally safe and 95% of women agreed that they felt more comfortable screening because the mobile screening service was located at their local Aboriginal health service.

The results have been impressive also. To date, more than 160 Aboriginal women have been screened, including more than 80% of women who screened for the first time or had been overdue for their regular screen.

Susan Forrester, Manager Public Health and Research at Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), said the shawl project was the culmination of 18 months of hard work and planning between Breastscreen Victoria, VACCHO, the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS), and eight Aboriginal health organisations.

"The shawls have made a very strong impact both locally, and regionally," Ms Forrester said. "It's vibrant, culturally driven with incredible artwork, and amazing stories, I think that has been the key."

"The idea behind this project is simple," said Terri Smith, CEO of BreastScreen Victoria. "We take our mobile screening van to Aboriginal communities and provide cultural shawls made by Aboriginal artists for women to wear, so they feel safe and empowered during their breast screen."

"But this project is so much more than that. It's value also comes from the leadership of Aboriginal Health Services, who are the experts in their own communities. They turned this into something that really worked."

The Aboriginal Breast Screening Shawl Trial won a 2019 VicHealth Award in the category of Improving Health Equity.

The Beautiful Shawl Project was captured in a heart-warming, 12-minute documentary filmed on Country, and features the reactions and feelings of Communities, staff, and clients.

Watch it now online at Federation Square's Virtual Square.