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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5198


Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (13:14): I would like to take this opportunity to ask some questions of the Minister for Health, especially in relation to current investments in expanding two particular cancer screening programs. The first one is the bowel cancer screening program and the second is the expansion of breast cancer and cervical cancer screening to women in the 70- to 74-year-old group.

The reason I ask this is that you yourself, Deputy Speaker, just a little while ago talked about the challenges faced by people in regional areas in relation to access to treatment but also to screening. In my case, I have an electorate that has a very high level of people linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds. We as governments over the years have made commendable efforts to fund cancer awareness and prevention programs, but if language and culture are barriers mitigating against the full appreciation and benefit of those programs then we have a problem.

Recently I was visited by the BreastScreen Victoria people who, coincidentally, have an office right next door to my own in Broadmeadows. They showed me figures that indicated a dramatic drop in the number of women who were availing themselves of mammography in age groups and ethnic backgrounds that I at least was of the impression we had made significant advances in. As a member here, I have spent many years advocating for screening in various breast cancer and bowel cancer programs. As a result of that meeting, next week my office is hosting a morning tea which we have quite aptly described as a mother-daughter awareness morning tea, the reason being that many women in the elder category of 60 and over are not actually having mammograms. On the other side of that, you have women younger than 30 and 40 who are also not having mammograms. They are areas that we have been targeting. It is very important to remind women in those age groups that it is just as important for them to have mammograms. I am having this morning tea next week in the hope of encouraging mother-daughter couples, with the dual purpose of the mother looking out for the welfare of the daughter and the daughter looking out for the welfare of the mother—and this will hopefully spread to nieces and granddaughters. We are doing it in this particular way because one of the problems with women generally, especially those from non-English-speaking backgrounds, is a fear of what the mammogram might reveal and so they avoid having potentially life-saving screenings. I am looking forward to the minister speaking about the government's decision to increase the program for breast cancer screening to women in the 70 to 74 group.

Last year I was also very pleased that the government funded a bowel screening program. I did have the opportunity to ask the minister questions about this last year, but this year I am particularly also pleased that we are increasing the funding to that bowel screening program. As a result of some of the work I did last year on bowel cancer screening my office has had an incredible response from the community. We took the step of translating the material from the bowel cancer screening kit into five different languages. I spoke about regions being a barrier. Languages are also a barrier. On the back of those successful translations into various languages of this very important screening program, I have had an incredible response and support from my electorate. So, Minister, I would like you to, please, reflect on your views, on behalf of the government, on our investments in these cancer prevention, detection and treatment programs and how they are in fact improving the lives of Australians, especially those Australians who have been touched by cancer.