Indigenous quit smoking program trains 1000

14 April 2011

(L-R) Luciana Massi, Sandra Wallace and chief investigator Shane Hearn.
(L-R) Luciana Massi, Sandra Wallace and chief investigator Shane Hearn.

A University of Sydney program aimed at cutting high smoking rates in Aboriginal communities has trained its one thousandth health worker.

The program, called SmokeCheck, was launched in 2007 and is funded jointly by the NSW Department of Health and the Cancer Institute NSW. It has now trained 1000 Aboriginal health workers and health practitioners across NSW.

"The SmokeCheck program aims to train all NSW Aboriginal health workers and other health professionals who provide care for Aboriginal people to encourage their clients who smoke to quit," says Luciana Massi, SmokeCheck's senior trainer.

"It's really exciting to reach such a significant milestone. Smoking is contributing to the high mortality rates of Aboriginal people and is a major contributor to serious illness such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes," Ms Massi said.

Sandra Wallace, the one thousandth trainee, is an Aboriginal Health Education officer in inner Sydney. Sandra is also a current student at the University of Sydney studying the Graduate Diploma in Indigenous Health Promotion.

The smoking rate among Aboriginal Australians is almost double that of non-Aboriginal people, although there have been reductions rates of smoking among Aboriginal people over the past decade.

The 2006-2009 Report on Adult Aboriginal Health found that 33.9 percent of Aboriginal adults in NSW are current smokers, compared to 17.2 percent of the general population. This shows a significant decrease from the 2002-2005 report's findings, which indicated more than four in every 10 (43.2 percent) Aboriginal adults were current smokers.

SmokeCheck, as a leading evidence-based brief intervention smoking cessation program designed specifically for Aboriginal people, is in a unique position to continue contributing to a fall in smoking rates in Aboriginal communities in NSW.

Ms Massi explains: "Each time a client comes to the health service they may not have thought about giving up, but the SmokeCheck intervention encourages them to think about why they smoke."

"The health worker then uses the culturally specific resources to support their client in quitting and the conversation can be revisited at future visits," says Ms Massi.

Reducing the high rates of tobacco smoking among the Aboriginal population will help to close the 17-year life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.

For registration or further information about SmokeCheck workshops, visit the SmokeCheck website, call 9351 5129 or email

Media enquiries: Kath Kenny, 0478 303 173, 9351 1584,

Victoria Hollick, 0401 711 361, 9351 2579,