The Beautiful Shawl Project returns to South West Victoria

Our mobile screening vans return to Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) to bring breast screening to more Aboriginal women. Cultural shawls will help local Aboriginal women feel more comfortable, respected, and safe throughout their breast screening experience.

Throughout August and September, The Beautiful Shawl Project will be returning to:

  • Dhauwurd-Wurrung Elderly & Community Health Service (Portland),
  • Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation (Heywood),
  • Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative (Warrnambool),
  • Kirrae Health Service (Purnim), and
  • Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-Operative (North Geelong). 

We first visited these ACCOs in 2019 and are back in 2021 to encourage local Aboriginal women to return for their regular, two-yearly breast screen.

The shawls aim to make sure women feel culturally safe by featuring local Aboriginal artists' artwork that is unique to each community. Each Aboriginal woman who screens will receive a shawl to keep. 

First is DWECH (Portland), where the van will be from 23-27 August. DWECH's shawl features the art of local Gunditjmara artist Bronwyn Ferguson and is called Journey of Hope. In a statement, she explains the meaning behind the artwork. 

"The two hands in the far-left corner represents support for each other as we journey, depicted in the footprints, through challenges leading in the hope of celebration and victory, shown in the raised hands on the far-right corner. The yarning circles on each corner represent the importance of women getting together to share with and encourage each other in a safe, cultural environment. The hands are holding the heart and the dove, which represents love and hope. Two joined circles surround them with a line weaving around those circles to encourage women always to keep going and remain strong. The heart also incorporates the breast cancer symbol, reminding us that we do not have to go it alone if going through health care challenges."

From Portland, the mobile screening service will make its way to Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation in Heywood, where it will be from 30 August to 3 September. Yigar, Gunditjmara artist Jenna Bamblett created the art for Heywood's shawl.

"The symbols here represent breast cancer survivors coming together and supporting one another," Jenna explains. "The circles represent each of the four communities in the south west: Warrnambool is Gunditjmara and Kirrae, Portland has Dhauwurd Wurrung Elders, and Heywood has Windamara and Hamilton. The ring around those big circles represents the community supporting and sharing, and raising awareness about the importance of breast screening in the community. And how the community supports everyone looking after their breast health. The circles represent every breast screen that has been achieved so far in the community and the importance of breast screening for women in the Aboriginal community in the south west."

 Next up is Warrnambool. The van will be at Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative on 6-10 September. Gunditjmara's cultural screening shawl features a design by Warlpiri woman Rebecca Clayton.

"The green and blue waves at the top of the painting represent Gunditjmara Country, Land and Coast. The symbol of people on the green/blue is the Gunditjmara community women," Rebecca explains. "The large symbols of women across the centre of the painting are the elders who have taken the lead in women's health, who have had their regular breast screen and cervical screen, and other women's business consults. The designs on the women is a traditional Warlpiri ceremonial pattern. The design for Walpiri women is painted on the chest, breast and arms for women's business. The dotted area at the bottom and the symbols represent the extended Aboriginal community of women from other places on Gunditjmara Country. The traditional and non-traditional colours indicate the individual journey that we all have and the way of identity, acceptance, acknowledgement and following the footsteps of the local leaders and role models who take the lead in better health care choices."

The mobile screening service will then make its way to Kirrae Health Service in Purnim. It will be there on 13 and 14 September. Yirandali woman Shylee Corrigan created the art for Purnim's cultural screening shawl, titled You are Strong. In a statement about her artwork, Shylee explains.

"The hands represent the strength, love and hugs from all the people. The water holes and rivers represent the journeys through life, the connection between mobs and the connections to land. The shield represents the warrior within and acts as a protection against shame when undergoing check-ups. The colours represent and acknowledge the beautiful nature and animals that we have across the lands. The dots and lines represent and acknowledge the art and the stories from all the people across the lands."

Lastly, the mobile screening service will head to Geelong to visit Wathaurong Aboriginal Cooperative from 15-17 September. Arrente woman Jasmine-Skye Marinos created the artwork for Geelong's shawl, called Kardeeneeyoo Toort-Barram.

"Kardeeneeyoo Toort-Barram, in Wathaurong language, this means Morning Stars," Jasmine-Skye explains. "The rising sun represents a new day, and the stars above are our ancestors watching over us."

The Beautiful Shawl Project is an award-winning initiative, run jointly by BreastScreen Victoria and the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO). It has visited 16 communities since it started in October 2018 and has seen over 360 Aboriginal women breast screened.