May 15, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Serious message behind Yvonnes laugh

3 min read

Yvonne Carroll is becoming known throughout the country for her laugh, but theres a serious message behind it.

Yvonne (Ngai Tahu and Ngati Kahungunu) appears in one of the new television ads that encourage women to have regular cervical smears and not to be embarrassed. She plays a woman having a smear while reading a gossip magazine, feeling sorry for celebrities because they have no privacy!

A member of the Board of Trustees at Wellington East Girls College, Yvonne auditioned for the ads with a fellow board member with the idea of raising funds for the school. She has donated her fee for appearing in the ads to the fund to build a wharenui at the College.

Acting is a far cry from her day job as a Service Development Analyst for the Ministry of Social Development, but 52-year-old Yvonne is a big believer in regular cervical screening because of its success rate in early detection of changes that could lead to cervical cancer. Her own family has been touched by other forms of cancer, also detected early thanks to regular screening.

She feels strongly that women need to be the managers of their own health, and having regular cervical smears is part of that.

None of us like being told what to do, and these ads show that, even though we might feel a bit embarrassed about having a smear, theres also a humorous side to it. We need to get over our inhibitions and remember that its over quickly, and its really not that bad!

She believes Maori women will respond well to the new ads, and the way they were written really appealed to her. The writing was really cool. Even when I first read it I burst out laughing. It had all the right messages, but treated the issue of embarrassment with sensitivity.

Initially, Yvonne auditioned for the role of a nurse. But I started giggling and was asked to swap. I really think it was my laugh that got me the part!

Yvonne says her 14-year-old daughter, Acacia, was another big incentive for her to do the ad, and she wanted to make sure Acacia was happy for her to do it. But she said go for it Mum – thats so cool!.

Yvonnes husband Doug was also very supportive. And he thought the ad was very funny. He cracked up as much as I did.

She found the process of making the ad fascinating, and was touched by the sensitivity everyone involved showed her, ensuring that she was comfortable with what she was being asked to do.

The attention to detail was just amazing. They couldnt do enough for me. They were always making sure that I was OK.

Yvonne was already a fan of the commercials director, Sima Urale, and was thrilled to meet her. And its funny how things are connected because shes an ex pupil of Wellington East Girls College.

September is Cervical Screening Awareness Month, and women are being encouraged to have a smear if its due or to think about when they last had a cervical smear.

Maori and Pacific women have higher rates of cervical cancer and lower screening rates.

The test can detect changes to cells in the cervix that, if left untreated, could become cancer. About 160 New Zealand women develop cervical cancer every year and about 60 die from it.

But cervical cancer is one of the most preventable of all cancers and regular cervical smear tests every three years could save your life because they reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer by 90 percent.

Figures from the National Screening Unit show that without regular screening, 1 in 90 women will develop cervical cancer. With regular screening, only 1 in 570 women will develop it.

Women who are not sure when their smear is due, or who want to become part of the Programme, can ring the freephone number 0800 729 729.

Smear tests are available from:

  • your doctor or practice nurse
  • Family Planning
  • sexual health services
  • marae-based or other M?ori health centres
  • community health services, such as womens health centres.

Cervical Screening Awareness Month is coordinated by the National Screening Unit, in partnership with Stayfree. During the month, women can enter an online competition to go in the draw to win 1 of 1000 Neutrogena lip glosses worth $24.95 go to to enter.

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