Yaama Bulaarr

Bulaarr means Two in Gamilaroi language

Cultural Sensitivity Warning

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are warned that this newsletter contains topics of a sensitive nature including Sorry Business and Sad News, and may contain images, names and voices of persons who have passed away

Yaama Yarns

Welcome to the second edition of Yaama Yarns.Courtesy of SpiritalCleansing.org

Gwandalan Update

The Gwandalan Project had the honour of visiting the Aboriginal community of Woorabinda in Queensland during late 2021. Gwandalan accompanied the Indigenous Program of Experience in the Palliative Approach (IPEPA) QLD to guest present at the Palliative Approach to Care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professional workshops at Woorabinda and Gladstone.

Comments received from participants regarding the workshops was positive, with some stating:

  • “all the information was very helpful, which will help me talk to my own people now and feel comfortable talking about palliative care”
  • “very culturally appropriate”, and
  • “learnt what palliative care is about as I thought it was about cancer care only”.

Gwandalan Project does not address clinical palliative care content, but rather supports the culturally safe and responsive provision of palliative care, by upskilling frontline staff to contextualise clinical care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

IPEPAs’ Palliative Approach to Care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professional workshop focus is more on the clinical and healing aspects of palliative and end-of-life care. For more information on this workshop for your community visit IPEPA.

Gwandalan will be travelling throughout 2022 to deliver face to face workshops across the nation. Keep an eye out for a workshop near you.

Woorabinda Participants

Partner Update – Palliative Care South Australia

At the November 2021 Palliative Care South Australia (PCSA) Board meeting, the board considered its next steps to reconciliation with Australia’s First Nation peoples. During this meeting, the board looked at the Palliative Care Australia Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). As a member organisation of Palliative Care Australia (PCA), PCSA has effectively committed to the actions outlined in the PCA RAP due to this RAP being endorsed at the national level. Executive Director of PCSA, Mark Waters is a member of the PCA Working Group and was involved in its drafting and development.

Consideration was given for PCSA to develop their own RAP however it was decided that PCSA would formally endorse the actions and aspirations set out in the PCA RAP and regularly report against these actions. Moving forward, next steps for PCSA include setting up a local Aboriginal RAP Advisory Committee. In doing so PCSA can ensure actions are meeting local expectations and needs of the many Aboriginal communities across South Australia.


PCSA are excited by the prospect of taking these next steps as they re-commit to the reconciliation journey. This commitment will be reflected in improving access to palliative care for Aboriginal people as well as advancing the Aboriginal workforce within the palliative care sector.

To view the PCA Reconciliation Action Plan, July 2021 – November 2022, visit Palliative Care Australia.

Indigenous Program of Experience in the Palliative Approach (IPEPA)

Finding the ‘Ganma’ in Palliative Care

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. IPEPA is 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 are interested in learning more about walking with us, the Indigenous Program of Experience in the Palliative Approach (IPEPA) offer culturally responsive palliative care workshops in every jurisdiction. To find out more visit IPEPA or contact Nicole at Nicole.hewlett@qut.edu.au or through the IPEPA Facebook.


Which Way? (What’s happening? What’s going on?)

Helping to support an end-of-life journey at home or on Country

Many Indigenous Australians express the wish to be cared for, and to pass, at home or on Country surrounded by family if possible. Many families will be motivated to help make this happen if they can.

“Indigenous peoples look after our elders and the sickly and try to keep them at home as long as possible. It was just a no brainer he would be at home, surrounded by family.” An Indigenous Carer from Queensland caring@home resources can support this outcome. Families can be taught by health professionals to give medicine under the skin to help manage the person’s symptoms at home. This enables fast and effective symptom relief keeping the person comfortable and avoiding waiting for help from a health professional or travelling for care.

Indigenous families who have looked after a person at home value being able to do this for their family member.

“The nurse was lovely, she explained everything to me…how to give subcutaneous medicines…, afterwards I could see that he was peaceful so there wasn’t a worry about being anxious, restless or you know, worrying if he was in pain. I could just see that he was comfortable and that is all that I wanted.” An Indigenous Carer, Queensland.

The caring@home team has undertaken an extensive consultation process over the last 12 months on the best way to tailor existing caring@home resources to provide a more culturally appropriate package to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. We visited all Australian states and territories, and spoke to health professionals, managers and health bureaucrats located in cities, regional, rural and remote areas. Approximately 200 participants in more than 55 face-to-face meetings and online events have provided feedback.

The wide-ranging consultation was appreciated by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The feedback received has been very diverse and is essential to help guide the project’s development of the resources. Based on this consultation and feedback, resources are currently being developed with an expectation of further consultation and piloting this year. If you would like to be involved in any way please contact the Project Manager, Karen Cooper at Karen.Cooper3@health.qld.gov.au.

It is anticipated that the resources will be available via the website, an app or as a hard copy later in 2022. The caring@home team thanks everyone who is supporting this project and who has participated in the consultation so far.

For more information visit caring@home or register for project updates here.

Liz Reymond at Alice Springs Hospital

The caring@home for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Families project is funded by the Australian Government and is being conducted by Brisbane South Palliative Care Collaborative (lead agency), The Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwifes (CATSINaM), HealthInfoNet and Palliative Care Australia.

Taking Care of Dying Time

Hear Chris Thorne, the Aboriginal Community Support Worker for Koolin Balit, share his experience of when advance care planning would have made a difference for his family. In this video, Chris encourages all – young and old – to yarn with family about completing advance care plans so they know your wishes if you were to become seriously ill or injured and cannot speak for yourself.

To start yarning about documenting your future wishes, download the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Discussion Starter here.

For more information on advance care planning visit Advance Care Planning Australia.

New online module on voluntary assisted dying and the law

End of Life Law for Clinicians (ELLC) has released a new online training module about voluntary assisted dying (VAD) and the law.

This module can be accessed for free at the ELLC online training portal.

This newly developed module is designed for medical practitioners, nurses, allied and other health professionals, and medical students.

Training content explores:

  • VAD laws in Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania, South Australia, and Queensland, including eligibility criteria and processes,
  • the role that different health professionals may play in relation to VAD, and

whether health professionals and institutions have to provide VAD.

Connecting In
(Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Palliative Care Staff Profile)

Yarning with Cheryl Porter – Pedras


Who’s ya Mob? Where ya from?

I was born on Eora country, raised and grew up on Wiradjuri country in Wellington NSW. Most of family still reside there and it’s always nice to head back to country and connect with mob and community.

What does palliative care mean to you?

Palliative Care to me is extending support and services to someone with a life limiting illness, the way they wish their care to be, it’s making everything we can to make each day as good as it can be for that someone with an illness that isn’t going away. It’s working with and alongside my non Aboriginal PC specialist’s and clinicians supporting them in providing cultural appropriate safe supportive care. After all this is not our journey it’s that’s person journey.

It’s about listening and working with community to develop local resources for South Western Sydney Local Health District (SWSLHD) and service providers for better access and understanding of how palliative care services can work for them.

Why is accessing palliative care important for our mob?

Accessing palliative care and having a positive experience can bring much healing to loved ones for many years after the loved one passes and begin to break cycles of grief and trauma.

End-of-life and palliative care helps with social, emotional, cultural and spiritual concerns as well as physical problems. Palliative care services can support mob to stay in community or return to Country. Palliative care can also help family members, carers and other mob learn how to support their family member.

Why is advance care yarning important?

The time surrounding the end of someone’s life is precious and needs to be respected and approached in a safe, responsive, and culturally appropriate manner. Often there are a number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have customary practices before, during and after passing.

Planning in advance through Advance Care Yarning gives those who will be caring for you the opportunity to understand your wishes. Yarning is the most important thing we can do with family, however, when someone is unwell this can bring about emotions and confusion. Advance care planning can give you peace of mind, but it is also a protection for the loved ones who could find themselves making important decisions on your behalf.

Please tell us about your role within the palliative care team?

I work as the Senior Aboriginal Health Worker for South Western Sydney Local Health District, the priority for me and the importance of this role is to work in partnership and provide support to all specialist palliative care services. I also work with other services and health professionals to ensure culturally appropriate medical, nursing, allied health, personal and supportive care is provided for patients and their caregivers and is the core focus of their business.

I am in the supportive role of initial planning and ongoing review and management for Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander patients with complex symptoms, while also supporting patients and their family’s needs during the palliative care journey.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your role?

Collaboration, I love my job, because everyone I work with shares the vision of cultural respect, and acknowledges the importance of cultural considerations when providing palliative care. We all aim towards, and are dedicated to this vision.

Seeing my Local Health District embrace culture, and value and support the role of the Aboriginal Health Worker within the team, has added value and richness. Seeing my colleagues wanting to learn and understand our ways, beliefs and practises has led to improved levels of care that we give. Small steps lead to beautiful things.

Working with community and being named recipient of the 2001 Palliative Care Australia – Excellence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Palliative Care, is dedicated to my community, I see this award as their reward for all the support, and through all the story sharing of their palliative care journeys.

How do you feel being a part of someone’s returning to Spirit journey?

I feel blessed and honoured to be a part of this journey. Although, there are no words to describe the honour of holding the space whilst can often be sad times. I endeavour to try and make the end-of-life experiences as memorable and a legacy to that person who is passing.

What do you do for self-care, what keeps your spirit strong to work in the palliative care space?

Giving myself the space to reflect, going back to Country as much as possible and having access to cultural supervision for debriefing.

Didja Know?

There are at least 200 islands in the Torres Strait with only 18 of these inhabited.

Source: tstlanguages.org
Emu bush leaves were used in some communities as bush medicine to wash sores and cuts; and occasionally for gargling. Recently, leaves from this plant were found to have the same strength as some established antibiotics.

Source: Australian Geographic

Didja know, that palliative care is not just the care received towards the end. Palliative care is available at any stage of a sick person’s illness and doesn’t always mean they will pass away soon. The sick person can receive palliative care for years and can also continue treatments for their illnesses while they are having palliative care.

Yeah……Nah – Palliative Care Myths

Myth: Palliative care patients pass away from starvation because they are no longer eating.

Fact: People on their end of life journey don’t experience hunger or thirst like healthy people do, as the body knows food is no longer needed. People who stop eating and drinking towards the end of their life, pass away from their illness not starvation.

(Adapted from Palliative Care Australia, Palliative Care Myths)

Recommended Read

Secrets of Aboriginal Healing – A Transformational Journey with a Remote Australian Tribe

A guide to the 60,000-year-old healing system of the Aboriginal people revealed through one man’s journey to overcome multiple sclerosis.

In 1983 award-winning physicist Gary Holz was diagnosed with chronic progressive multiple sclerosis. By 1988 he was a quadriplegic. Then, in 1994, his doctors told him he had two years to live. Desperate and depressed, he followed a synchronistic suggestion and went to Australia to live with a remote Aboriginal tribe. Arriving in a wheelchair, alone, with almost no feeling left from the neck down, Holz embarked on a remarkable healing transformation of body, mind, and spirit and discovered his own gift for healing others.

Written at the request of the Aboriginal healers Holz worked with, this book reveals the beliefs and principles of the 60,000-year-old healing system of Aboriginals of Australia, the world’s oldest continuous culture. Chronicling the step-by-step process that led to his miraculous recovery, he explains the role played by thought in the creation of health or disease and details the five essential steps in the Aboriginal healing process. He explores the use of dreamtime, spirit guides, and telepathy to discover and reprogram the subconscious motivations behind illness–a process that enacts healing at the cellular and the soul level, where the root of physical illness is found.

Supported by modern science, including quantum physics, Aboriginal medicine enables each of us to tap in to healing support through the power of the body, mind and spirit connection.

Which Way? (What’s happening? What’s going on?)
Events and Training

SHINE South Australia

‘Introduction to Working with Transgender and Gender Diverse Clients’
Date: Tuesday 12 April 2022
Cost: Free
Venue: Online webinar
Register here

Palliative Care Nurses Australia Virtual 2022 Biennial Conference

Date: Sunday 01 – Wednesday 04 May 2022
Cost: $100 – $375
Venue: Online
Register here

13th National Closing the Gap First Nations Health Conference

Date: 9-11 May 2022
Cost: $1000 – $1600
Venue: Sea World Resort Conference Centre, Gold Coast Queensland
Register here

Palliative Care Queensland 2022 Statewide Palliative Care Sector Education

‘The palliative care needs of First Nations peoples’
Date: Wednesday 25 May 2022
Cost: Free
Venue: Online
Register here

Upcoming Dates

National Palliative Care Week 2022 – “It’s your right”

National Palliative Care Week held 22 – 28 May is Australia’s largest annual awareness-raising initiative held to increase understanding of the many benefits of palliative care.
For more information visit Palliative Care Australia.

National Reconciliation Week 2022 – “Be Brave. Make Change”

National Reconciliation Week—27 May to 3 June—is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.

For more information visit Reconciliation Australia.