NAIDOC Week: Working Together to Support Indigenous Australians with Breast Cancer

This NAIDOC Week, we’re shining a light on the work of McGrath Breast Care Nurse Liza Salib, who is based in the remote town of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.

Liza supports indigenous and non-indigenous patients from across a wide area of the Territory including communities such as Utopia and Tennant Creek, where some people with breast cancer have to travel up to 500km south to Alice Springs for treatment.

Working to support people from these remote areas and ease feelings of isolation is one of the important roles Liza plays as a McGrath Breast Care Nurse in this area. To ensure people from these communities have the appropriate care, Liza works seamlessly with Aboriginal Liaison Officers to offer culturally appropriate guidance, often in a patient’s mother tongue. She will attend doctor’s appointments and accompany patients during their diagnostic appointments which involves processes some patients are not familiar with.

“A vitally important part of my role is to understand the cultural needs of each individual patient,” Liza says. “I work to ensure they feel supported and where in some communities there can be a lot of stigma around breast cancer that they feel less isolated, more supported and more connected.”

Some of Liza’s patients have never been to a large town or city and may face language barriers.

Working together with Aboriginal Liaison Officers, Liza is also able to help break down any language barriers, so she can help patients better understand their diagnosis and empower them to make informed decisions about their treatment.

“A breast cancer diagnosis is a challenging time for anyone,” said Liza. “Above all, it’s important to treat all patients with respect and compassion.”

Liza has built a strong connections with a number of women coming from remote communities, some of whom only come to the town for treatment. “My patients are usually as happy to see me as I am to see them. It’s a privilege to be able to offer this service.”

One of Liza’s patients, Karina took part in the 2018 So Brave calendar and discussed the impact Liza had for her in the below video.

“I think we’re so blessed to have Liza and the other breast care nurses before her,” Karina said. “She’s somebody that I can talk to about anything.

“Liza hears more about my breast cancer journey than my own mother and it’s not that I don’t want to share that with my mum. It’s more the fact that I don’t want to worry my family. To have someone like Liza there for me is amazing.”

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