Culturally appropriate palliative care

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are a diverse group of people made up of many different nations and language groups, and with a living culture made up of both contemporary and traditional practices.

When nursing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people open honest communication and non-judgemental care is important. Recognition of the impacts of colonisation on peoples and cultures is helpful. A growing understanding of the lived experiences and the context in which people live, is important.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are traditionally cared for in their own communities, however, they are increasingly entering residential aged care facilities, and are considered ‘aged’ when over 50 years old. [1] One study highlighted that specialist palliative care services are not accessed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but the study failed to recognise that the services need to establish ongoing, trusting and culturally appropriate relationships before this would happen. [2]

Provision in any care setting may be needed for culturally appropriate bereavement practices such as smoking ceremonies or care of the deceased. [1,3]

Culturally safe and responsive care is essential to providing high quality care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Visit the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Care section to learn more.

  1. Shahid S, Bessarab D, van Schaik KD, Aoun SM, Thompson SC. Improving palliative care outcomes for Aboriginal Australians: service providers' perspectives. BMC Palliat Care. 2013 Jul 23;12(1):26.
  2. Brooke NJ. Needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients residing in Australian residential aged-care facilities. Aust J Rural Health. 2011 Aug;19(4):166-70.
  3. McGrath P, Phillips E. Insights on end-of-life ceremonial practices of Australian Aboriginal peoples. Collegian. 2008;15(4):125-33.

Last updated 20 August 2021