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Sad news, sorry business: guidelines for caring for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through death and dying

Posted on: 22 February, 2012
Issue: Vol 12 No 1, January 2012 – March 2012
Related to Cultural ways Palliative care Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Branch Queensland Health (2011)
Sad news, sorry business: guidelines for caring for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through death and dying
Brisbane: Queensland Health

This document provides general guidance for carers of Indigenous Australian people faced with death. The guidelines take into account that for many Indigenous people, the times before death, of death and following death, are subject to a number of customary practices.

The first part of these guidelines covers cultural competence for health workers, including verbal and body language, building rapport, and the roles of Indigenous hospital liaison officers and Indigenous health workers.

The second part of these guidelines covers caring for Indigenous patients and their families during the patient’s final stages of life. Topics are:

  • diagnosis and information
  • the gathering: preparation for death
  • time of death
  • sad news, sorry business: time after death
  • postponing the burial
  • financial barriers
  • traumatic or sudden death
  • open disclosure
  • coronial investigations
  • resource list.

The guidelines are intended for Queensland Health staff, but may be a useful resource for workers in other parts of Australia. The guidelines acknowledge that customary practices about death vary for different groups of Indigenous people, and that any document can provide general guidance only.

Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet abstract

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