Aboriginal health workers

Planning ahead, around healthcare decisions, does not happen easily for most people.

In Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, people may not feel comfortable talking about becoming sick or injured, or what will happen toward the end of their life. They will often think these issues are family business, not to be discussed with others. They might not feel comfortable getting involved with ‘government paperwork’, such as making a Will or filling out official forms for Power of Attorney.

What’s involved?

Planning ahead is relevant for everybody in the community – including people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Planning ahead can include:

  • making a Will
  • organising someone to look after the person’s finances if they can’t do this any longer
  • making sure the person has someone they trust that will make healthcare decisions for them if they can’t do this any longer
  • ensuring the person talks about how they want people to make decisions for them if they have to in the future.

Benefits of planning ahead

Planning ahead lets you have some say now about how decisions are made for you if you can’t speak for yourself later through being sick or injured in an accident. It makes it easier for family who have to make decisions about your care if they know what you would have chosen. It means the person or persons speaking for you can discuss with staff your cultural and spiritual needs as well as your medical needs. This might include who you want to look after you and where you want to be looked after. It gives you peace of mind knowing that you have sorted out some important stuff in your life.

What you can do

Aboriginal health workers can play an important role in promoting planning ahead to their community in a culturally sensitive and appropriate way. Some of the ways they can do this are outlined below.

  • Check out the earlier information in this section of the website for health and community care professionals.
  • Become familiar with the resources available from this website.
  • Find out if there any advance care planning programs in your local area and whether you can get any training or support from them.
  • Get a general understanding of planning ahead in your State or Territory from the section of this website with this information. While doing this, check out the websites of organisations such as the Public Trustee and Public Guardian/Advocate for your State or Territory to see if there are any resources or programs aimed at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Make links with Aboriginal Legal Services in your area and find out what support they can provide to people about making Wills, Power of Attorney and other aspects of planning ahead. Also find out if they can provide training and support to you on these issues.
  • Talk to the elders and others in your community about these issues so they get the information from a trusted source in ways that make sense to them.
  • If there are individuals or families you think need to know about planning ahead, give them this one-page leaflet about Start2Talk and offer to help them if they want to explore the issues further.
  • Introduce the idea of planning ahead gradually so that people can work through the issues in a way and time that suits them.
  • Allocate time to follow up with any individual or family who wants to explore the issues further or else make arrangement for them to see someone from a local health or legal service who can help them with these issues.

Resources for Aboriginal health workers