Since 2020, Australian General Practice Accreditation Limited (AGPAL) and Palliative Care Australia (PCA) have worked in partnership to co-develop a suite of freely accessible and tailored education and training materials to support cultural safety within palliative care services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The Gwandalan* National Palliative Care Project supports the provision of culturally safe and responsive palliative care by upskilling frontline staff to contextualise care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and deliver services in a way that supports the end-of-life journey.
In celebration of NAIDOC Week 2023, a new First Nations animated resource, ‘Who’s that palliative care mob?’, was launched. This resource has been added to the Gwandalan Dillybag, which includes a range of e-learning modules, interactive tools and webinars to support staff in the palliative care and First Nations health sectors to promote the uptake of palliative care services within First Nations communities.
The animation is based on the Dillybag booklet written by Jonathon Jauncey – a Yawuru man from Broome in the Kimberley region of Western Australia and based in Darwin, Northern Territory. Jonathon has shared this family story, via the animation and booklet, to enable community members to be informed on the services and supports available for those on their Returning to Spirit journey.
A significant barrier to palliative care for First Nations patients is experiencing a lack of cultural understanding or racism within health services. The Gwandalan Project is taking steps to address these challenges through the provision of Dillybag resources and, more recently, a series of face-to-face workshops undertaken throughout each state and territory of Australia.
With a range of initiatives being undertaken as a result of the Australian Government’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2021–2031, continuous partnerships and programs such as the Gwandalan Project are essential in supporting Australians to Close the Gap.
Recognising the importance of improving care accessibility, understanding and service delivery for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, Adjunct Associate Professor Tina Janamian, AGPAL Group Chief Executive Officer, has spoken about the need to continue supporting health services and providers to achieve health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
‘The Gwandalan Project has allowed the AGPAL Group to raise our capacity and capability to meaningfully contribute to supporting appropriate palliative care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
‘It has been a privilege for our team to have engaged with Elders and community to co-create and deliver the associated training, and we have learnt so much ourselves from the experience,’ she said.
Scott Trindall, the Indigenous Health Project Officer responsible for shepherding and leading the project to its recent conclusion, has spoken of the importance of storytelling and accessibility to resources through the Gwandalan Project.
‘First Nations families have so much to benefit from improved access to culturally safe palliative care services. Sharing stories about passing has been part of our cultures for thousands of years and it’s been a rewarding experience working with community members to put the “Who's that palliative care mob?” resources together. I’ve also been humbled by the amazing response from palliative care staff generally to the Gwandalan program; their commitment to working better with our people can only result in a smoother Returning to Spirit journey for First Nations palliative patients,’ he said.
Spirituality plays an important role in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture with many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people possessing strong beliefs about the existence of life beyond the physical realm. Life and death are viewed as a continuous cycle from birth to death to rebirth – the life, death, life pattern.
In some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, speaking of death is considered taboo. Given the cultural sensitivities surrounding death, it’s important that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural beliefs and practices are acknowledged and accommodated during the palliative and end-of-life care journey.
The Gwandalan Project is funded by the Australian Government under the Public Health and Chronic Disease Care Grant, National Palliative Care Projects 2020–2023, with all resources available free of charge by registering via the Gwandalan website or contacting the Gwandalan project team at [email protected] or phone 1300 362 111
*Thank you to the Darkinjung Nation and the Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council for allowing the use of ‘Gwandalan’; their recognition of the importance of palliative and end-of-life care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is greatly appreciated. Learn more about the meaning of ‘Gwandalan’ at www.gwandalanpalliativecare.com.au