First Nations People of Australia – End of life care at Calvary Riverina

Palliative Care Australia believes quality end of life care can only be realised when it is culturally appropriate to the needs of the individual and their family.

Australian First Nations people, comprise of hundreds of cultural groupings with distinct languages and histories, as such, it can be difficult for non-Indigenous healthcare workers to successfully provide culturally appropriate end of life care.

To provide culturally appropriate services, it is essential healthcare providers engage with local country Elders and Aboriginal Liaison Officers to guide and support end of life care.

For First Nations families experiencing an end of life journey, the gathering of family and community members is a mark of respect. The gathering is associated with the person’s position within the community. Therefore, it is important to ensure an appropriate large enough space to support participation in this cultural tradition. At Calvary Riverina, it was identified that there was not a large enough space for families to come together. The family room, typically used for family meetings, did not provide a culturally aware environment, nor did the space cater for larger extended families to gather and grieve.

As a result, an outdoor gathering place called Yilawura – ‘Pleasant place to camp’ was proposed. The space was designed in consultation with local Elders and a young Aboriginal artist. Yilawura incorporated existing trees but featured Wiradjuri Country native plants, seating for 12 people, access steps, disability access pathway, rock features, and interpretative and directional signage. Yilawura has provided a space for healing, hope, nurturing and a connection to Wiradjuri Country.

Australian First Nations people are underrepresented in accessing palliative care services.3 This reluctance to engage in the western medical model of healthcare stems from a number of factors, including a lack of culturally appropriate services. However, with the right resources, training and awareness, we can hope to alleviate some of the barriers to providing culturally informed support to First Nations people and their families accessing end of life care.


The article above was originally published in Australian Nursing & Midwifery Journal, Other, 06/05/2022, Krishna Lambert & Brooke Wichman. View here.