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$5 million grant for First Nations cancer screening equity boosts research team lead by Indigenous professor

Callan Morse -

Proud Kamilaroi woman Gail Garvey and her team at the University of Queensland will receive a $5 million grant to address the disparity between cancer screening for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

The grant has been made available through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Synergy Grant Schemes.

Cancer is a leading cause of death among First Nations Australians with the mortality gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians continuing to widen.

To address this, the federal government scheme aims to improve screening programs and research of cancer in Indigenous Australians.

Professor Garvey said that programs to improve cancer screening for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are most effective when developed in partnership with Indigenous leadership and communities.

"Our aim is to co-design, co-implement and evaluate strategies to achieve equity in cancer screening for Australia's First people," she said.

"To address the disparities in cancer screening rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, we are working to co-design screening programs with First Nations peoples, rather than implementing a one-size-fits-all approach.

"Access to equitable, safe, and timely models of care to prevent cancer will make health and wellbeing achievable in our communities."

NHMRC Synergy Grants support highly collaborative research and their teams to help address health issues from discovery right through to translation.

Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians and Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, said the federal government is committed to closing the gap, with the investment in the First Nations-led project aiming to find lasting solutions to health inequities in Indigenous communities.

"Cancer screening saves lives. Investigating more effective ways to detect cancer early will go a long way in ensuring treatment and care is provided at critical times," Senator McCarthy said.

"Increasing participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in cancer screening processes that are culturally relevant will help reduce this significant health burden and save lives."

The grant is one of 10, totalling $50 million invested in this round of Synergy Grants to find answers and solutions to major health challenges in Australia.

In announcing the grant, NHMRC chief executive Professor Steve Wesselingh commended Professor Garvey and her team on their research project.

"NHMRC continues to support excellence, creativity and innovation – and I'd like to personally congratulate Professor Garvey and her team on this fascinating research project," he said.

"NHMRC's vision is to reduce equity gaps in research, and support consumer and community engagement – which is exactly what this project will achieve."

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