Finding the ‘Ganma’ in Palliative Care
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Finding the ‘Ganma’ in Palliative Care

A blog post written by Nicole Hewlett

Like many of our communities, water is a symbol of knowledge in Yolgnu philosophy and the theory of ganma is where streams of knowledges combine and lead to deeper understanding and truth. Our Yolgnu brothers and sisters have drawn on this as a metaphor for how Aboriginal knowledge (represented by the fresh water), and Western knowledge (represented by water from the sea) mix with each other to form the creation of new knowledge, generated from the interaction and collaboration of Aboriginal and Western knowledges. However, for this new foam to form, there must be balance where the two streams meet; if not, one will be stronger and harm the other.

At IPEPA, our dream is that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will have equitable access to palliative care knowledge, resources and services so that we may pass with dignity, sovereignty and respect. We are also passionate about working with non-Indigenous peoples and stakeholders, with the intrinsic knowing that it takes all of us working in solidarity together to achieve this dream.

If you are not already, you too can be part of this dream and we extend a heartfelt invitation to walk with us to find the ganma in palliative care. To genuinely take this walk, will require your willingness to undertake a transformative journey involving your openness to listening, learning, evolving and most importantly, surrendering your own ways of knowing, being and doing.

At the heart of this journey, is your ability to genuinely share your time and spirit. In the busy-ness and clinical-ness of the system and its demands, you can see how our two worlds can clash. But it’s important to emphasise that we need your genuine and meaningful time so that we can read your heart, connect with you our way and this leads to us understanding you. How does anyone trust someone they don’t understand? If anything, fear sits in that disconnected space and that is why so many of our people are scared of hospitals and anything to do with the health system. So, you can see how important each and every one of you are in this walk and creating access for our people.

When you have the ultimate privilege of connecting with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person, I encourage you to give the gift of your time and spirit – regardless of whether this environment is clinical, work-related or social. Use the time to share your spirit by offering a bit of your story – not your professional or educational one, strip away that privilege and let us connect with you and better understand your weave in this world – where did you come from? Who is your family?  What makes you, you?  Then tell me that you know nothing about my journey, but you are here to listen and learn. And I promise you, every time you speak to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person, you will learn something deep, something that will move your spirit and change your heart in some special way, but you need to be open to that learning and understand that you don’t have to have the answers and we do not expect you to. Just listen and listen deeply so together, we can find the ganma in palliative care.


If you would like to learn more about walking with us:


Nicole HewlettNicole Hewlett,
National Indigenous Manager


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The views and opinions expressed in Palliative Perspectives are those of the authors and are not necessarily supported by CareSearch, Flinders University and/or the Australian Government Department of Health.