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Development Phase

Providing culturally appropriate palliative care: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Resource Kit Project

Development Phase (2001-2003)

In 2001 a consortium of Mungabareena Aboriginal Corporation, Wodonga Institute of TAFE and Mercy Health Service Albury was commissioned by the Department of Health and Ageing to develop a set of national guidelines and accompanying training resources to support palliative care services provide more culturally appropriate palliative care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Throughout the development phase of the project the focus was on developing resources and guidelines which focused on the provision of care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The project acknowledged the importance of culture and emphasised processes for decision making, recognising the diverse cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the influence of European cultures and religions, and other social and environmental factors that contribute to the breadth and diversity of cultural beliefs within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Consultation during development of the Resource Kit 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander palliative care patients, their families and communities contributed generously during the development of these resources by sharing their experiences and stories. Invaluable information was received from by individuals and palliative care practitioners. Data was provided by Kate Sullivan and Associates through the Indigenous Palliative Care Needs Scoping Project.

Information and ideas were contributed to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, community leaders, Aboriginal Health Workers and Liaison Officers, relatives of those who had died, palliative care physicians and specialists, clinical care consultants, nurses, allied health specialists, grief and loss counsellors, volunteers, home and community carers, academics and staff from government health departments.

The importance of family and community and their role in decision making and care support was acknowledged and incorporated.

Issues were examined in the light of intercultural communication challenges experienced by health service providers faced with the unique experiences and beliefs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The focus was on the broad principles and processes that underpin the uniqueness of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective, the basic principles of intercultural communication and the issues around implementing these in Australia.

The Providing Culturally Appropriate Palliative Care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Resource Kit was completed in December 2003. The resources provide an overview together with strategies to address the unique issues and factors influencing the provision of culturally appropriate palliative care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Targeted to mainstream health services, the resources include a training program which can be incorporated in existing curriculum and competencies for the education of mainstream health workers and other professionals, and can be adapted to regional and jurisdictional needs and requirements for local delivery.

The Resource Kit contains the following elements:

The Practice Principles

The Practice Principles were developed to provide a framework for palliative care service providers to examine their own policies and practices in relation to the requirements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

They are based on a holistic approach to palliative care responding to the spiritual, emotional, social, psychological, physical and economic needs of the patient. The importance of family and community, and their role in decision making and care support, is acknowledged and incorporated.

The Practice Principles aim to support palliative care service providers to be inclusive in developing locally appropriate policies and practices to meet the needs of their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, families and communities.

The Resource Kit

The Resource Kit was developed to support the implementation of the Practice Principles and training for the provision of palliative care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

It aims to support palliative care providers becoming aware of issues in providing palliative care and provide some strategies for use when addressing these issues.

A central theme of the Resource Kit, and the accompanying Practice Principles for providing palliative care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, is that of consultation – seeking information from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patient and / or their family and community.

Discussion Paper

The aim of the Discussion Paper was to inform and add value to both the Practice Principles and the education and training Resource Kit.

It seeks to provide a general understanding of the world's indigenous peoples' experiences and beliefs about death and loss and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' experiences and beliefs in particular.

This is examined in the light of intercultural communication challenges experienced by health service providers faced with the unique experiences and beliefs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The focus is on the broad principles and processes that underpin the uniqueness of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' perspective, rather than specific myths and rituals which cannot be generalised across Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' cultures.

The final section of the discussion paper includes a summary of the basic principles of intercultural communication, issues around implementing these in Australia, and a significant section on recommendations for practice.

Course

The Course provided professional development and training in examining the practice of caring for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander palliative patients, their families and communities for cultural appropriateness. It is designed for all personnel providing palliative care services, including GPs, medical specialists, nurses, allied health specialists, administrators, managers, home and community carers and personal carers.

The Course comprises one unit of competency: Provide culturally appropriate palliative care to Indigenous Australians.  


Page authors: Jenny Butler (Manager, Training Design, Wodonga Institute of TAFE) and Julie Mueller (Project Officer, Palliative Care Section, Department of Health and Ageing)

Last updated 23 September 2008