Charles Sturt student works toward improving health of Indigenous women

[by Nicole Barlow]

Image: supplied

A Charles Sturt University student is committed to improving the health of Indigenous women by encouraging more to get mammograms.


Ms Barbara Garlett (pictured), a Ballardong and Yued women from Western Australia, is the first Indigenous student to enrol in Charles Sturt’s Graduate Diploma of Mammography and will graduate in 2021.


She graduated with a Bachelor of Nursing from Deakin University in 2015, which she began while working at the Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia, and has since worked at an Aboriginal Medical Service in Western Australia as a registered nurse.


As she was looking at getting back into nursing after having children, the high mortality rate of Indigenous women who were diagnosed with breast cancer was the driving force in her decision.


It was then that she decided to enrol to become a mammography practitioner to help Indigenous women feel comfortable to get tested and increase the likeliness they would return for further testing.


“If I could save an Aboriginal woman’s life, just one, it would give me a sense of pride in the work I’m doing,” she said.


“I’d feel a sense of comfort if I was screened by an Aboriginal woman … so I want to create a culturally safe environment for Aboriginal women and build that connection with them.”


Ms Garlett also wants to inspire other Indigenous women to enter the workforce, especially in mammography.


“Family is very important in Aboriginal culture, and I would like our women to know that we can have a family as well as a successful career,” she said.


“We don’t have a lot of Aboriginal mammography practitioners currently, but there is a need there.”


Charles Sturt Associate Head of School of Dentistry and Health Sciences and Associate Professor of Medical Imaging Kelly Spuur said the program is supported by BreastScreen Australia through the provision of clinical training and use of their facilities.


The course is credentialed through the Australian Society of Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy and students are eligible for the Certificate of Clinical Proficiency in Mammography upon graduation.


Wagga Wagga-based Associate Professor Spuur started delivering the course at Charles Sturt in 2014 with the aim of producing enough high-quality graduates to fulfil a demand for mammography.


“The people we train are from non-radiography backgrounds,” Professor Spuur said.


“They are highly educated and highly motivated and have proven themselves 100 times over.


“I think for any woman interested in women’s health, this is a great place to start.


“Both radiographers and mammography practitioners have a fundamental role to play in the diagnosis of breast cancer.”


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