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Seeking better outcomes for Aboriginal people in cancer and palliative care

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A group of Curtin University researchers have been awarded a $20,000 grant to develop a protocol for health service providers to better engage with Aboriginal clients.

The West Australian Cancer and Palliative Care Network Research and Evaluation Unit grant was awarded to the group from the Curtin-led WA Centre for Cancer and Palliative Care, directed by Post Doctoral Research Fellow, Dr Shaouli Shahid.

Indigenous Australians have the poorest health status of any identifiable group in Australia as a result of a range of communicable and chronic diseases.

According to Dr Shahid, recent improvements in cancer treatment and palliative care, and the reduction in cancer mortality rates in Australia overall have not led to improvements in cancer outcomes for Aboriginal people.

The problem may lie in a variety of unaddressed issues for Aboriginal patients and carers, who commonly miss out on optimal palliative cancer and palliative care.

“Many Aboriginal people have a lot of mistrust towards the existing health system, so that is a big barrier itself,” Dr Shahid said.

“Also, many Aboriginal people live in remote areas, where they have limited access to pharmaceuticals, so infrastructure is a big issue.

“Communication is also a big issue. Whereas the Western approach may be to look at health from a biological point of view, Aboriginal people often have a more holistic approach to looking at health.

“There are also very few Aboriginal staff to administer care.”

Dr Shahid previously undertook research into Aboriginal cancer patients and families’ views and understandings of cancer care and their experiences accessing care services.

This latest study will build on Dr Shahid’s earlier research to form a comprehensive picture that could inform future policy decisions in this under-researched area.

Indigenous Australians have higher incidences of smoking-related cancers, are less likely to access cancer screening and are diagnosed at a more advanced stage. They tend to have poor continuity of care, lower compliance with treatment, lower five-year survival rates and lower utilisation of palliative care services.


Dr Shaouli Shahid, WA Centre for Cancer and Palliative Care, Curtin University
Tel: 08 9266 1755, Mob: 0433 818 850

Jaymes Brown, Public Relations, Curtin University
Tel: 08 9266 9085, Mobile: 0400 729 027, Email:

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