Transforming the Cancer Journey at World Indigenous Cancer Conference

Apr 11, 2024

Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) was honoured to attend the third World Indigenous Cancer Conference (WICC) hosted by the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre Alliance in Naarm (Melbourne).

Held every three years, WICC brings together First Nation leaders, health workers, cancer survivors, and researchers from around the world to yarn and share knowledge. This year’s theme was Process, Progress, Power.

Abe Ropitini, Executive Director of VACCHO’s Population Health Unit, led a discussion panel guiding attendees through each stage of the Victorian Aboriginal Cancer Journey Strategy, which was launched by VACCHO in 2023. The discussion centred on the exceptional work being done to transform the cancer journey for Victorian Aboriginal Communities, highlighting trust, cultural safety, connection, and earlier and more holistic support for individuals and families.

The panel included Aboriginal health leaders from both mainstream and Aboriginal Community Controlled Services. VACCHO’s Zarayn Knight (Kamilaroi, Barkindji, Murrawarri), Andrea Casey (Dja Dja Wurrung, Palawa) and Jay Hamman (Narungga), each spoke to the early stages of the cancer journey. This ranged from keeping mob healthy through strengths-based prevention and health promotion initiatives, to embedding culture into screening and early detection pathways, and bringing culture into settings of treatment and care. Beautiful stories were shared about VACCHO’s Beautiful Shawl partnership with BreastScreen Victoria, and about the work of our Aboriginal Health Liaison Officers in hospitals across Victoria.

Aunty Janice Lovett (Gundtijmara), and Nikki Foy (Gunditjmara) continued the journey with discussions about the importance of advanced care planning and the social and emotional wellbeing of families and carers throughout the cancer journey.

VACCHO also presented Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives on Cancer Prevention and Screening in Victoria, highlighting the success of community controlled cancer screening and prevention initiatives around Victoria.

VACCHO Executive Director of Population Health Abe Ropitini was inspired to see global Indigenous Communities gathering to celebrate our cultures and reaffirm our determination to leading our own solutions.

“The conference was a celebration of culture, strength and collaboration by Indigenous peoples from Australia, Aotearoa, Canada, the United States, and the many other Indigenous nations around the world.”

“It was a great honour to showcase the work that Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations do to wrap around families throughout the cancer journey, and to support thriving communities.”

“It was also inspiring to see the pride in every presenter as they shared their learnings and experiences and found common ground in the global effort to decolonise healthcare.”

VACCHO sincerely thanks our partners at the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre Alliance, and everyone involved in the organising committees for an inspiring World Indigenous Cancer Conference.


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VACCHO is the peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing in Victoria – the only one of its kind – with 33 Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations as Members. VACCHO Members support over 65,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria, and combined are the largest employers of Aboriginal people in the state.