The Cervical Screening Test is one of the best ways to prevent cervical cancer by finding changes before they become cancer. Cervical cancer is largely preventable through the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine and regular cervical screening.
Only 37% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women had a cervical screening within the last three years (as of June 2018). According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, over 70% of cervical cancers occur in women who are under-screened (overdue for cervical screening), or who have never been screened.
The National Cervical Screening Program aims to prevent cervical cancer through regular screening. The Cervical Screening Test looks for HPV infection so that it can be found early, before it has a chance to cause changes to cervical cells, which could lead to cervical cancer.
Women and people with a cervix aged 25-74 who have had sexual contact with another person (of any gender) are eligible for a Cervical Screening Test under the National Cervical Screening Program. For those eligible, it is recommended to have a Cervical Screening Test every five years.
Self-collection is now an option for cervical screening.
From 1 July 2022, eligible screening participants will have the choice to screen either through self-collection of a vaginal sample using a simple swab, or clinician-collection of a sample from the cervix using a speculum. These options produce equally accurate results.
Self-collection is not suitable for some people. If you have unusual vaginal bleeding, or a history of cervical cancer or pre-cancerous abnormalities, self-collection may not be right for you. You should discuss this with your healthcare practitioner.
If you are a healthcare practitioner looking for clinician resources, please visit the Self-Collection page of the Australian Centre for the Prevention of Cervical Cancer’s website:
Self-Collection | acpcc.org.au
Book your Cervical Screening Test
Make an appointment with your doctor or nurse at your local Aboriginal health service or regular doctor’s practice. To find out more about cervical screening call the Cancer Council Victoria on 13 11 20.
Resources for Community
Resources for Members & ACCOs
Talking to Community about Breast, Cervical and Bowel Screening – FREE self-paced online training courses available to Aboriginal Health Workers, Health Promotion Officers and allied health professionals to increase knowledge and build confidence to discuss screening, early detection, and immunisation messages with Community. There are three interactive course highlighting key messages on breast, cervical and bowel screening. Each course takes 30 minutes.
Artwork by Yorta Yorta and Gunnai Artist, Dixon Patten Jnr
Clinical Resources for Self-Collected and Clinician-Collected Cervical Screening
We’re working with the Australian Centre for the Prevention of Cervical Cancer (ACPCC) to build primary care clinicians’ ability to provide more culturally safe and empowering cervical screening experiences for Aboriginal women and people with a cervix.
Victorian Aboriginal self-collection kits for cervical screening are available to all Victorian ACCOs that provide cervical screening. The kits, featuring stunning artwork by Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung and Gamilaroi artist Madison Connors, include:
• An Aboriginal designed zip-up pouch
• A self-collection patient instruction card (how to collect the sample)
• A non-transparent specimen bag with the swab.
For women and people with a cervix who choose a clinician provided cervical screening test, and/or whose screening result requires them to take further follow up tests, a covering is available featuring Madison’s artwork for use during these consultations that they can keep.
VACCHO is committed to achieving equitable access to culturally safe and empowering cervical screening services for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members in Victoria eligible for cervical screening. We’re working to ensure that these self-collection kits and coverings are available to our mob no matter where they access primary health care services.
For any questions about the self-collection kits and coverings, contact the Cancer Journey Team at VACCHO.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Vaccine
The HPV vaccine is one of the best ways women and people with a cervix can reduce their chances of developing cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine protects against nine types of HPV. HPV is the cause of 90% of cervical cancers in women and people with a cervix. The vaccine is most effective when given between the ages of 12-13.
The HPV vaccine is provided free in secondary schools to all children aged around 12-13 years under the National Immunisation Program. The HPV vaccine is also free for anyone aged 12 to 25 and can be accessed through your local health service or pharmacy.
It’s important all children get vaccinated to protect themselves against HPV-related illnesses, including cancer.
VACCHO collaborated with ORIMA Research to gain insights into the attitudes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and people with a cervix regarding cervical screening.
The study aimed to:
- Find out what information Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women need and want to know about cervical screening.
- Identify the best ways to share information about cervical screening, HPV and cervical cancer.
- Test an existing cervical screening resource with the intended audience. This helped us see if the information was helpful and what could be improved.
- Understand if different groups of people have different communication needs and preferences. This includes younger and older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, those who identify as LGBTQIASB+, and those with disabilities.
The research reciprocity report can be found below. To read the full research report contact the Cancer Journey Team via the enquiry form.
Using art to start a conversation about cervical screening
Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung and Gamilaroi woman and artist Madison Connors talks about her collaborative project with Cancer Council Victoria. The project ‘Sistas Get Checked’ uses artwork to convey cervical screening messages to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander communities.
Madison Connors is a proud and strong Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung and Gamilaroi woman, mother and artist. She was born and grew up in Kanny-Goopna (Shepparton), Victoria but now calls Naarm (Melbourne) home. Madison’s identity is what drives her – her experiences as an Aboriginal woman have shaped her ambitions and perspectives on the world, which in turn translates into her visual representations. Her artwork celebrates women’s health and Aboriginal culture.
Madison says ‘As a proud mum of two burrai (babies in Yorta Yorta) I envision change in the conversation into the future. I recognise our health as everyone’s responsibility.’
(Speak about vulvas in Yorta Yorta language)
by Madison Conners, Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung and Gamilaroi
As an Aboriginal person, this piece is deeply personal and important to me, as it depicts people with a cervix getting cervical screening and putting this as a priority.
The piece is meant to emphasise the importance of regular cervical screening tests for people with a cervix, something that is often overlooked or ignored. I believe that everyone deserves access to quality healthcare, and that includes preventative care like cervical screening.
The artwork itself is calming and peaceful, with soft, and dark blue tones evoking a sense of healing and connection. The upside-down u shape represents people, shown in a relaxed and comfortable state, emphasising that getting a cervical screening test doesn’t have to be a stressful or uncomfortable experience.
I wanted the piece to convey a message of community and support, showing that by taking care of ourselves, we are also taking care of those around us. The connection between each person in the painting is meant to represent the wider community and the importance of looking out for one another.
As an Aboriginal artist, I feel that it’s important to use my art as a way to speak out about issues that affect our community. Reproductive health is a vital issue that impacts people with a cervix of all ages and backgrounds, and it’s essential that we prioritise it.
I hope that my art can help to start conversations about the importance of cervical screening and reproductive healthcare, and that it can serve as a reminder to prioritise our health and the health of our communities. Thank you for taking the time to learn about my artwork, and I encourage you to share it with others.
Get in touch with VACCHO’s Cancer Journey Team
Got a query? Get in touch by filling out and submitting the form below or by phone 03 9411 9411.