Indigenous advocacy work awarded at world conference

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A researcher from The University of Western Australia's Western Australian Centre for Rural Health (WACRH) has been recognised for her outstanding contribution to Indigenous cancer care in the regions at a prestigious international Indigenous cancer conference recently held in Melbourne (Naarm).

Proud Yamaji woman Lenny Papertalk received the 2024 World Indigenous Cancer Conference award for her consumer and advocacy work in Geraldton and Mullewa in the Midwest of Western Australia.

The award recognises someone who has provided a voice for Indigenous cancer care and shown outstanding energy and influence in cancer care for Indigenous people. 

In accepting the award, Lenny spoke about at age 17 having to choose between education and caring for her grandmother, her cultural knowledge holder, who had cancer.

Lenny Papertalk is a qualified Social Worker and Community Engagement Officer employed with WACRH in Geraldton.

Lenny was instrumental with her WACRH and UWA colleagues in developing the ‘Whisper No More: Sharing Our Stories for better cancer outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ program.

She is a passionate advocate in encouraging her Yamaji community to share their lived experiences living with cancer.

Through her advocacy and community engagement of encouraging Aboriginal cancer patients to share their stories on video and agreeing to the use of the material to make resources for health professionals to enhance their understanding of what matters to Aboriginal people when they have cancer.

Topics in the interviews include the person with their family, their symptoms and diagnosis, care seeking and delays in diagnosis, response to diagnosis treatment, and what helped them living with their cancer diagnosis, things they did to stay well and wishes for end-of-life care. 

A result is the WACRH Whisper No More online course for healthcare professionals and health science students, accompanied with a series of 14 video interviews with focus on individuals’ cancer stories.

WACRH Director Professor Sandra Thompson said, “Lenny was selected from Indigenous attendees from all around the world for this award. What a huge achievement it is for her to be recognised in this way.”

“Lenny is a remarkable indefatigable woman with a very big heart. It is fantastic to see her being acknowledged for her efforts over many years supporting better cancer outcomes for Aboriginal people. We are all celebrating her great achievement.”

Photo caption: WA Centre for Rural Health colleagues Professor Sandra Thompson, Lenny Papertalk, Dr Charmaine Green with Professor Tom Calma at the World Indigenous Cancer Conference in Melbourne.