National Indigenous Bowel Screening Pilot

This pilot program aimed to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to do the bowel screening test. It provided resources for families and communities, and primary health care professionals participating in the pilot program.

Why it is important

Bowel cancer is one of the most treatable cancers if it’s found early. But Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is low.

Reducing barriers that encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to screen is important. It helps to close the gap in health and life expectancy between First Nations Peoples and non-Indigenous Australians.

About the pilot

In 2018–2019 we funded the Menzies School of Health Research to develop the National Indigenous Bowel Screening Pilot. It looked at alternative ways of getting bowel screening kits to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The goal of the pilot was to increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people doing the bowel screening test to help close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous participation in the program.

Through the pilot, trusted Indigenous healthcare providers gave out kits directly to people.

Resources for health professionals and for communities and families were also made available.

For some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, receiving a kit from a trusted health professional was a more positive experience than receiving one through the mail. It removed many barriers to screening.

People who took part in the pilot reported that they:

  • understood why the test was important
  • understood how to collect the samples
  • were keen to collect samples
  • did the test quicker than mail model pathway participants.

Who we worked with

To achieve our goals we worked with:

  • the Menzies School of Health Research
  • trained staff at Indigenous primary healthcare centres (IPHCCs) who handed out program kits to eligible patients.


The pilot ran for 12 months from 1 November 2018 to 31 October 2019.

There were 44 registered IPHCCs approved to hand out kits. The IPHCCs included:

  • Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCHOs)
  • primary healthcare centres run by state or territory health services
  • private or corporate general practices.

The pilot showed:

  • higher participation in screening for those who received kits through the alternate pathway
  • similar participation rates to non-Indigenous Australians who screened through the usual mail model pathway
  • increased screening among those who had been invited before, but never screened
  • increased screening among those who lived in areas of low socio-economic status or remote areas.

As a result of the pilot's success, participating healthcare providers can now hand out kits to eligible patients.

Learn more about the alternative access to kits model.

Final report on the pilot

Learn more

Get bowel screening information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Resources developed for the pilot are available from the National Library's web archive and include:

The Cancer Council also has information on why it is important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to do the bowel cancer screening test.

Date last updated:

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