e-Poster Presentation Clinical Oncology Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting 2020

Victorian Aboriginal cancer cultural safety grants (#373)

Liz Simkiss 1 , Kathryn Whitfield 1 , Leanne Bird 2 , Nikki McGrath 1
  1. Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  2. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners , Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


Aboriginal Victorians experience poorer health and lower life expectancy than the general community, including significantly higher cancer incidence and mortality rates1

The 2018 Victorian Aboriginal cancer cultural safety grant program aimed to support access to culturally safe and respectful health services in preparation for the launch of the nationally endorsed Optimal Care Pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with cancer.


In May 2018, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services Cancer unit piloted Aboriginal cultural safety grants of up to $25,000 for community engagement, workforce development and resources at 12 metropolitan and regional health services.  

An expression of interest was undertaken, with requirements for a summary report upon completion. Local Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations or community leaders approved health service applications. The Department’s Aboriginal unit provided project advice and jointly evaluated project proposals.

Using self determination principles, many projects altered from the original project proposal and duration. 


Ten projects are completed including; 

  • A yarning garden next to the Bairnsdale Regional Health Service oncology unit. Custom-made seating incorporates animal images of the local community totem or ‘creation animals’. The garden has a collection of panels featuring the five Gunai Kurnai clan.  
  • Development of quilts and dilly bags gifted to Aboriginal cancer inpatients at St Vincent’s hospital. Three dimensional dingoes designed and woven by other Aboriginal artists are in the day oncology unit lightwell, providing a culturally safe and interesting visual for all patients.   

Aboriginal artists and trades people have been employed and significant ‘in-kind’ resources have also been provided by the community. 

Workforce shortages have delayed initiatives across two health services in regional Victoria. 


Cultural safety grants garnered significant momentum and were successful in supporting cultural safety for Aboriginal people with cancer and their families.



  1. Victorian Cancer Registry 2019. Cancer in Victoria: statistics & trends 2018, Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria.