How palliative care can help 

Palliative care provides high quality health care to people living with sickness who are not going to get better. It helps to give you the best possible quality of life by managing pain and symptoms. 

I want to learn more

Palliative care can be provided at home, in an aged care facility, in a hospice or in the hospital. A general practitioner or doctor working with an Aboriginal community-controlled health service can assist in access to palliative care.

Who will care for me? 

Palliative care can be provided by different health professionals and often includes a whole team of people who share the journey with the patient. It can include nurses, doctors, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers and health services, medical specialists, palliative care services and home carers. They will make sure that no-one travels this journey alone.

People often have to go away for treatment when they are sick. Staying away from home and country is sometimes necessary, but not if the person is very ill and is expected to be finishing up soon. Patients and families don’t always know that they can come home at the end.

Care teams and health professionals

Care teams recognise that consistent ongoing care is important to many, so if you have a new referral to a palliative care service, it is important to let them know of the services and support you are comfortable with (Aboriginal community controlled health services [ACCHS], mainstream health professionals, community services). You can choose who is involved in your care. These services can work together to support your care journey as you advise.
  • Health professionals providing care. The CareSearch Patients and Carers section provides information on who provides palliative care
    • This section of the CareSearch website describes all the different types of health professionals that may be involved in supporting you.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workforce
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers, Health Practitioners, and Liaison Officers have an understanding of families, the culture, traditional and contemporary ways of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers can be found in primary health care services and hospitals, and often provide a cultural bridge and enable an immediate level of cultural safety. They work with other teams to support and advocate for the care required to support other Aboriginal people in their choices. These roles can be clinical and non-clinical although these responsibilities do not impact on their ability to link with other service providers.
  • Traditional Medicine
    • Many people use traditional medicines, and see traditional healers. This is part of culture and tradition for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Getting support from traditional healers, as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers, nurses and doctors may be helpful. Some people wish to use traditional bush medicines as well as western medicines. If you use traditional medicines, it's important to tell the health professionals caring for you, just in case there are any side effects or medicine interactions when combining traditional medicines with western medicines.
  • The role of Specialist Palliative Care Services
    • A palliative care specialist is someone who has lots of know-how in the care of someone who is really sick and not going to get better. They have knowledge that can help patients, families, Aboriginal community-controlled health services and mainstream health professionals.
  • Family and Community
    • For many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, family and community are important parts of life. Not all health professionals will know who is important to you or who they should talk to about your illness. It may help if you could tell your nurse or doctor about your family and how it is structured. You can have a family member and support person such as an Aboriginal Liaison officer with you at your appointments.

How do I share my wishes?

If you got real crook, and you couldn’t speak for yourself, would your family, doctor and Aboriginal Health Worker know what your wishes are about your healthcare? Letting everyone know what you want is the best way to influence the way you are cared for in times of illness. Planning ahead is important. The Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia's Rising Spirits website provides a summary on planning ahead. Further details on ways that you can do this are described below.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander discussion starter

Dying to Talk have created an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Discussion Starter designed to help people work out what's right for them in terms of what they would want to happen if they were very sick and not able to talk for themselves. The discussion starter helps you to prepare for having this talk with your family. You can learn more about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Discussion Starter and download the resource from the Dying to Talk website.

Advance care plans

An Advance Care Plan is a way that you can share your wishes and take control of your health journey.

At first it was hard, I didn’t understand what the surgeon was talking about in his language. I learned and began to ask questions. I would write them down and ask what he meant. I would read them out and he would tell me, in laymen’s terms he said, what is happening and will happen in the future.

A patient's story.

Source: Kelly J, Dwyer J, Mackean T, Willis E, O’Donnell K, Battersby M, et al. Managing Two Worlds Together: Study 3 - The Experiences of Patients and Their Carers (902kb pdf). Melbourne: The Lowitja Institute; 2011. Page 24.

To find out more about advance care plans you can look at these resources:


Having a Will is another way of making sure your choices are known, so that your family doesn’t have to play a guessing game and you can cut out the chances of family fights. Information about Wills can be found at:

Funeral planning

Making some plans for a funeral will also help when the time comes, so that big decisions don't need to be made when the family is distressed.

Last updated 24 August 2021