Australian Journal of Primary Health Australian Journal of Primary Health Society
The issues influencing community health services and primary health care

Insights on Aboriginal Grief Practices from the Northern Territory, Australia

Pam McGrath, Emma Phillips and Stephanie Fox-Young

Australian Journal of Primary Health 14(3) 48 - 57
Published: 10 January 2008


The rich data drawn from a study to develop an innovative model for Indigenous palliative care are presented to help address the paucity of authentic Indigenous voices describing their grief practices. Interviews with patients, carers, Aboriginal health care workers, health care workers and interpreters were conducted in four geographical areas of the Northern Territory in Australia. Insights and descriptions of the cultural processes and beliefs that follow the death of an Aboriginal person led to the identification of a number of key themes. These included: the emotional pain of grief; traditionalist ways of dealing with grief; the importance of viewing the body; the sharing of grief among large family and community networks, with crying, wailing, ceremonial singing, telling stories and dealing with blame all playing a part in the bereavement processes. Ways for Westerners to offer assistance in culturally sensitive ways were also identified by the participants, and are reported here to enable health workers to begin to understand and respond appropriately to traditionalist ways of experiencing and reacting to grief.

© La Trobe University 2008

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