Cancer support services - are they appropriate and accessible for Indigenous cancer patients in Queensland, Australia?

Lisa Whop, Gail Garvey, Kamalini Lokuge, K Mallitt, Patricia Valery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: In Queensland, Australia, the incidence of cancer (all cancers combined) is 21% lower for Indigenous people compared with non-Indigenous people but mortality is 36% higher. Support services play an important role in helping cancer patients through their cancer journey. Indigenous cancer patients are likely to face greater unmet supportive care needs and more barriers to accessing cancer care and support. Other barriers include the higher proportion of Indigenous people who live remotely and in regional areas, a known difficulty for access to health services. This study describes the availability of cancer support services in Queensland for Indigenous patients and relevant location.

 Using a set criteria 121 services were selected from a pre-existing database (n=344) of cancer services. These services were invited to complete an online questionnaire. ArcGIS ( was used to map the services’ location (using postcode) against Indigenous population by local government area. Services were classified as an ‘Indigenous’ or ‘Indigenous friendly’ service using set criteria.

 Eighty-three services (73.6%) completed the questionnaire. Mapping revealed services are located where there are relatively low percentages of Indigenous people compared with the whole population. No ‘Indigenous-specific’ services were identified; however, 11 services (13%) were classed ‘Indigenous-friendly’. The primary support offered by these services was ‘information’. Fewer referrals were received from Indigenous liaison officers compared with other health professionals. Only 8.6% of services reported frequently having contact with an Indigenous organisation; however, 44.6% of services reported that their staff participated in cultural training. Services also identified barriers to access which may exist for Indigenous clientele, including no Indigenous staff and the costs involved in accessing the service, but were unable to address these issues due to restricted staff and funding capacity.

Further research into the best models for providing culturally appropriate cancer support services to Indigenous people is essential to ensure Indigenous patients are well supported throughout their cancer journey. Emphasis should be placed on providing support services where a high Indigenous population percentage resides to ensure support is maintained in rural and remote settings. Further efforts should be placed on relationships with Indigenous organisations and mainstream support services and encouraging referral from Indigenous liaison officers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2018
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalRural and Remote Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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