The Leukaemia Foundation has re-affirmed its commitment to stand with and support First Nations Australians impacted by blood cancer.
Leukaemia Foundation CEO Chris Tanti said this year’s NAIDOC Week theme, “Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!” aligned with the organisation’s own commitment to stand with Australians living with blood cancer, and particularly populations who are presently underserved, including First Nations Australians.
“Many First Nations Australians face barriers to accessing treatment and support,” Mr Tanti said.
“We know that First Nations patients are less likely to engage with the health system than non-Indigenous populations.
“For example, First Nations Australians are 40 per cent less likely to attend hospital for an acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) diagnosis,” Mr Tanti added.
“When First Nations people do present to hospital, they are more likely to be diagnosed at a more advanced stage of cancer, and therefore, their cancer survival rate is 20 per cent lower than non-Indigenous people.
“The Leukaemia Foundation is committed to working with community, healthcare organisations, government, and First Nations people to break down these barriers and implement more culturally relevant supportive care,” Mr Tanti said.
The National Strategic Action Plan for Blood Cancer has a series of recommendations to address the profound unmet needs of First Nations people with blood cancer, including improving data and strengthening the capacity of cancer-related services to meet these needs.
Mr Tanti said the Leukaemia Foundation is taking the first step by investing over $700,000 into a research study to better understand blood cancer within First Nations communities and help inform more culturally sensitive care.
“We’re also looking at making changes to how we deliver our services to First Nations communities,” Mr Tanti said.
“As a necessary first step, we are making connections with Aboriginal Liaison Officers for regional and remote communities, alongside building relationships with the traditional custodians of the lands on which our offices sit.
“We will be seeking their advice and perspectives, so we can ensure that the services we provide are sensitive and relevant to First Nations communities.”
This week, the Leukaemia Foundation will also launch its new Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan, to weave reconciliation into the fabric of the organisation, and to better align support services with the needs of First Nations Australians.
Mr Tanti acknowledged that there was more work to be done to close the gap in health.
“This is just the beginning, but this important work will begin to address the tragic gaps in care that mean that too many First Nations Australians die from their blood cancer.”