Palliative care in Tiwi Islands

We are particularly fortunate to have local Tiwi people, featured in the images above and below, in key roles such as support workers, cleaners, recreational support, kitchen staff and gardeners. With their unique appreciation and understanding of local issues and the emotional, social and cultural support our residents need, they contribute enormously to our understanding of local cultural knowledge and provide a vital link between the multi- disciplinary health care team, the client and their family. The images are reproduced courtesy of Glenn Campbell.

Mulakunya is a flexible aged care service for Tiwi Islander people operated by Calvary Community Care on remote Bathurst Island, 100 kilometres north of Darwin. The local Tiwi Islands population numbers approximately 3,000 people with 87% made up of Aboriginal people.

Calvary provides palliative care for Tiwi people who are approaching the end of life and wish to die in ‘country’, close to their
home and community.

When approaching death, returning to Tiwi and family is profoundly important. Using a collaborative model of care Calvary works with residents together with their family and a multi-disciplinary team including doctors and discharge planners from the Royal Darwin Hospital, the Bathurst Island renal clinic and visiting allied health and medical specialists.

Recognition of the importance of kinship and connection to country in Tiwi culture and providing a culturally, spiritually and physically safe environment is paramount in delivering services to all Malakunya residents. The time before, of and following death involves a number of cultural considerations, kinship responsibilities and traditional rituals. Many residents are also devout Catholics and combine their traditional practices and Christian beliefs. Therefore Calvary offers a flexible approach to care that minimises regimentation, maximises people’s freedom and community involvement and embraces the involvement of extended family and ceremonial rituals to pay respect to the person approaching end of life.

At Malakunya we feel privileged to be able to assist in the care of Tiwi people approaching end of life, provide person-centred and culturally sensitive care and to be the stewards of the heritage of compassionate care begun by the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary.