Proudly sporting their bright pink shirts, Aboriginal women from a rural community in New South Wales are helping mob screen for breast cancer.
The Deniliquin Local Aboriginal Land Council’s (DLALC) relentless passion for providing access and information about breast screening has seen a 50 per cent increase in the number of Aboriginal women aged 50–74 screened in the area recently.
Proud Wamba Wamba woman and DLALC chief executive Rose Dunn has seen the damage breast cancer can do first-hand within her family. She is urging more mob to get checked.
“Sometimes Aboriginal women just need that bit of extra support from someone who understands them, who they feel safe with, and who they trust, especially if they’re a bit nervous about having a mammogram, so we were happy to help,” Dunn told NIT.
“I’ve got family members that have passed from it … My mum was diagnosed very early with it, she had both her breasts off,” Dunn said.
Working closely with BreastScreen NSW, women from DLALC helped women book appointments, provided transport and stayed with the ladies at the screening van to have a yarn.
BreastScreen NSW held screening sessions dedicated to Aboriginal women so they felt comfortable and culturally safe.
Designated radiographer for BreastScreen NSW Bronwyn Morley said breast cancer is common in Aboriginal women and it can be lethal.
“Generally speaking … Aboriginal women have their breast cancers detected at later stages,” Morley said.
“They are more likely to die from breast cancer before they find it.”
Regular screener and DLALC liaison worker Karen Mobourne, said she did not have this type of support when she was first screened several years ago but if she did, she would have felt way more comfortable.
A respected Wamba Wamba woman, Mobourne said the Land Council recorded a total of 48 Aboriginal women getting screened, a massive increase from the previous years of about 10 women.
“We were Aboriginal women that [were] supporting Aboriginal women to get this done, and through that we were able to get a lot of them through the doors.”
Mobourne said the health barriers that rural Aboriginal women face may not be considered by mainstream health campaigns.
“The thing is being in a small town, even though the bus is here and they put the advertisements out … The women at hand, they don’t have access to internet or emails, any technology,” she said.
“They’re not going to know about it, so through us women here at the Land Council, we’re able to provide that connection to the person getting screened.”
Morley has been a radiographer for seven years now and she stressed the importance of getting checked early.
“Detecting cancers early means you are far less likely to need those big interventions like mastectomy or chemotherapy,” she said.
The DLALC is encouraging all organisations and other Aboriginal land councils to step up and support their women.
By Britney Coulson