Raising cancer awareness one yarn at a time

8 July 2019 | Cancer Council NSW

This year’s theme for NAIDOC Week is Voice. Treaty. Truth.. It celebrates Indigenous voices, know-how, practices, skills and innovations. To mark this important week, we spoke with Louise Brown, who works in aboriginal health in Western NSW, to learn about what she does to increase awareness and understanding of cancer in the Aboriginal community, and why her work is so important.


Can you tell us about your work in the Aboriginal community?

My name is Louise Brown and I’m the Aboriginal Liaison Officer for the Western NSW Local Heath District (LHD) at Bourke Hospital. I’m very involved in Aboriginal health, working with organisations like Cancer Council NSW, University of Melbourne, the Menzies School of Health Research and the NSW Ambulance Service.

I’ve been working in health for 15 years and have worked with all sorts of people affected by cancer and undergoing palliative care. It can be hard work, but I find it very rewarding working with patients and families at this time of their lives.

Louise Brown and Cancer Council NSW staffHow do you raise awareness and understanding about cancer in the community?

Through my work in health, I realised that many Aboriginal Health Workers in Western NSW aren’t aware of the information and services available to help Aboriginal people affected by cancer. So, together with Fiona Markwick (Community Programs Coordinator at Cancer Council NSW), we held two Yarning About Cancer Forums to try and improve this. One was in Dubbo (June 2018) and the other was in Orange (March 2019).

At the Forums, we had stalls so people could mingle and presentations about topics like cancer literacy and prevention. It was a great way for local health workers to get to know each other and learn about each other’s work. We had people from the Western NSW Local Health District, Cancer Institute NSW, Western NSW PHN, NSW Ambulance as well as Cancer Council NSW, so it was a good mix of health professionals.

What are your next goals for improving cancer outcomes in the community?

The feedback we got form the Forums was very positive, so we’d like to do more in the future. Maybe next time, we could do an event for the broader community and not just health professionals. Maybe something easy like a sausage sizzle day with stalls. Simple events like this work because people aren’t going online to find the information; they prefer to sit down face to face and talk.

I want to help answer questions that everyone asks me. Things like ‘how can I get to and from treatment?’. I also want to promote messages like why you should quit smoking, how to be sun smart and to make sure you screen for breast and bowel cancer.


Thank you, Louise, for sharing your story and the amazing work you’re doing to improve cancer awareness and knowledge in the community. We hope we can work with you on more Yarning Forums in the future!

For information about cancer, treatment, support and research tailored to the Aboriginal community, click here.