Urgent need for more Aboriginal cancer care staff

2 June 2016 | Kelly Williams
Aboriginal healthcare

This National Reconciliation Week, Cancer Council NSW are urgently calling on the NSW Government to increase the Aboriginal workforce in cancer services across the state.

We know that the update of the NSW Government’s ‘Good Health – Great Jobs’ NSW Health Aboriginal Workforce Strategic Framework 2011-2015 will be finalised in the first half of this year, so now that we’ve hit June, time is ticking for the Government to make a commitment to help improve cancer survival for Aboriginal people across the state.

We’ve been talking for a long time about gaps in the treatment and outcomes of Aboriginal people with cancer. Two years ago, we first called on the Minister for Health to take action to address the issue. And now, this National Reconciliation Week, we’re releasing new research that acts as another reminder of the need for our Government to act.

Our research team has found that Aboriginal people have a higher risk of death from primary lung cancer up to five years after diagnosis than non-Aboriginal people. Lung cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed for Aboriginal people, yet this new study also found that the odds of Aboriginal people having surgical treatment for their primary lung cancer were 30 per cent lower compared with non-Aboriginal people.

The results revealed by our researchers reflect a common trend. Aboriginal people with cancer are less likely to receive active treatment and have poorer long term outcomes compared to non-Aboriginal people. These differences are just not good enough, especially when we know what can make a difference.

At Cancer Council NSW, we know that strengthening the Aboriginal health workforce across all cancer services is critical to closing the gap in cancer outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.  We know this because Aboriginal people have told us. Consultations undertaken with Aboriginal cancer patients and their families in NSW have emphasised that improving cancer outcomes is more likely when trustful relationships are created with Aboriginal health staff. 

Time is running out for the NSW Government to ensure that critical targets are set to increase the Aboriginal workforce in cancer services. That’s why we are calling on them now, during National Reconciliation Week, to take action to ensure better treatment and survivorship outcomes for Aboriginal people affected by cancer.

Find out more about our campaign to increase the Aboriginal workforce and how you can help.

Watch a video about St Vincent’s Hospital Koori Room.


Cancer Council NSW encourages Aboriginal people affected by cancer, their family, carers and health professionals to access its Aboriginal Cancer Web Portal. Designed in consultation with the Aboriginal community, the portal provides culturally-appropriate information and resources to help navigate and support their cancer journey.

For information about cancer, resources for Aboriginal health workers, research into aboriginal cancer and stories from the community, visit: cancercouncil.com.au/aboriginalcancer