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BreastScreen Victoria

Training at NorthWest BreastScreen - Cultural Awareness Session highlighting the Vietnamese and Somali communities in Australia

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Aug 2009


To provide participants with an overview of both the Somali and Vietnamese communities in Australia; their background, family and social structures, general customs, health issues; attitudes towards health and towards the health system.
All Graduates has run several training sessions on ‘Working effectively with interpreters' , most recently in August 2009.

BreastScreen is a radiographic screening service for women over 50 to help in the detection of breast cancer - hopefully, early detection - for most effective treatment.

BreastScreen Victoria

Who attended:

The session was specifically run for Clinical Nurse counsellors with the assistance of two experienced health clinicians of Somali and Vietnamese ethnicity.


The Training

Interpreting at BreastScreen presents a series of challenges for interpreters and staff:

  • BreastScreen has high contact with culturally and linguistically diverse migrant women
  • There is heavy demand for BreastScreen services and sometimes there can be a tendency to ‘make do' without interpreters, believing English language skills may be sufficient for everything to be understood
  • Extensive form-filling in ranges from routine details to complex consent forms for various invasive procedures
  • Some of BreastScreen's work is done in situations of high anxiety of women for their bodies and health


  • Outcomes of the training

    A post-training evaluation revealed a high level of approval of the delivery of the session and the relevance of the issues.

    Participants were invited to nominate advice that they would give to a new colleague when working with Somali and Vietnamese clients.

    • Some Vietnamese women attending BreastScreen are very traditional in respect to beliefs and attitudes to health and have low English language skills.
    • Understand the complexity of family relationships and different cultural ideas of time/appointments.

    • A lot of issues faced by women with a diagnosis of breast cancer are experienced by most women, not just a specific culture. 
    • This group (Somalis) are very early in their settlement and issues are very “raw”.  They have limited knowledge of the screening program.



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