Issues in palliative care for Indigenous communities

Ian Maddocks and Robert G Rayner
Med J Aust 2003; 179 (6 Suppl): S17.


  • All Indigenous communities in Australia have a common heritage of loss.

  • Indigenous death rates are much higher than those for white Australians.

  • Indigenous people use healthcare services reluctantly, and palliative care services rarely.

  • Cultural considerations that need to be respected include Indigenous understandings of disease causation, attributions of blame for sickness, the performance of ceremonies after death and the importance of dying on traditional lands.

  • The involvement of Indigenous health workers in clinical care increases confidence in the healthcare system as a whole.

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  • Ian Maddocks1
  • Robert G Rayner2

  • 1 Flinders University, Bedford Park, SA.
  • 2 Royal Darwin Hospital, Casuarina, NT.



Bev Dershow and Simon Murphy of the Top End palliative care team and Aboriginal informants Major Sumner (Adelaide), Alan Sambono and Lorna Fejo (central Australia) contributed important insights to the preparation of this paper.

Competing interests:

None identified.

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  • 12. Williamson P. “Let me die in my country”: palliative care needs of Aboriginal people in the Kimberley and Pilbara regions of Western Australia. Broome: Department of Human Services and Health, Western Australia, 1996.


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