When the Discovering Indigenous Strategies to improve Cancer Outcomes Via Engagement, Research Translation and Training Centre of Research Excellence (DISCOVER-TT) and a Cancer Council NSW Strategic Partnership (STREP CaCIndA) were established in 2013, relatively little was known about the needs of Indigenous cancer patients and their families. DISCOVER-TT and STREP CaCIndA aimed to address these knowledge gaps and bring together leading researchers with service providers, policy-makers, consumer advocacy groups, Indigenous groups and cancer service consumers to undertake high-priority research.

We have made significant advances in knowledge on how to improve cancer care for Indigenous Australians and our research program has contributed to key policy and practice change. For example, our work included the provision of a tool for health services to systematically identify unmet supportive care needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. The systematic use of this tool in cancer care results in Indigenous patient’s unmet needs being addressed. We also trained staff from cancer care services across Australia to use this tool, which is now a published recommendation in the Optimal Care Pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People with Cancer Guideline. Visit for more information on this tool.

We also provided the first population level data on cervical screening rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, thus providing baseline data for practice and policy change and to inform future interventions to increase cervical screening.

Building capacity was integral to the cancer program and we trained and mentored 13 postdoctoral research fellows (4 Indigenous), 13 PhD/Masters students (6 Indigenous), 9 Research Assistants (3 Indigenous), 14 research staff (3 Indigenous), 4 Indigenous cadets/medical student placement. To date we have made 93 presentations of CRE results and published 36 peer-reviewed manuscripts. We have been successful in gaining an additional $15m in competitive funding in this research area.

DISCOVER-TT and STREP CaCIndA have contributed greatly to changing the conversation about cancer. Through this research program we also created significant network opportunities and policy/practice guidelines, such as: 

  • National Indigenous Cancer Network: to connect Indigenous audiences, cancer survivors, service providers, researchers, health professionals, private sector, government, and NGO organisations.
  • World Indigenous Cancer Conference 2016: the first conference focusing on cancer and Indigenous populations, with over 300 delegates from 15 countries. See for information on the first conference and for information on the upcoming conference.
  • Alternate Pathway to the National Indigenous Bowel Screening Program: partnering with Commonwealth Department of Health to conduct a pilot with 50 primary health care centres to make bowel screening more accessible for Indigenous Australians and improve screening rates.
  • National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cancer Framework: with Cancer Australia we developed a framework to provide high-level guidance and direction to improve cancer outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Through DISCOVER-TT and STREP CaCIndA we identified new research priorities in the field of Indigenous cancer control through an extensive consultation process, and we are now focussing on implementation and evaluation research that involves key stakeholders, such as the health services that are providing care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Visit the Centre of Research Excellence (CRE) in Targeted Approaches To Improve Cancer Services (TACTICS) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People for more information.