Discussing Choices - Indigenous Advance Care Plans

Palliative Care Australia (PCA) is located in Canberra on the traditional lands of the Ngunnawal People.
PCA acknowledges the past and present traditional owners of this land and respects their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this nation.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

No one ever really knows what the future holds. From a recent survey conducted by Palliative Care Australia, 88% of Australians think it is important to talk to their family about how they would want to be cared for at the end of their life. However, 50% of Australians have done nothing yet to share their end-of-life wishes.

Additionally, for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, talking about 'death and dying' can be uncomfortable. Culturally, discussing this topic can be perceived as 'tempting it' and viewing images of a person who has died or using their name in conversation can impact that person’s journey. Still, planning for what they would want at the end of their life can help them, their family and their community. Therefore, health workers need to learn how to conduct end-of-life discussions with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in a culturally safe and respectful way.

Discussing Choices

On the remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community of Groote Eylandt, Northern Territory, local Health Centre professionals have had success by working respectfully with the local Anindilyakwa people, empowering them to express their end-of-life wishes by outlining the various aspects of an Advance Care Plan in a culturally safe and responsive way. With the endorsement of Elders, many community members have completed an individual Advanced Care Plan.

Filmed on Groote Eylandt, the Discussing Choices - Indigenous Advance Care Plans - A Learning Resource video (approximately 26 minutes) documents this success and acts as a culturally safe and practical case study for professional health, Aboriginal and community workers on ‘how to’ support and complete Advance Care Plans for end-of-life care in Indigenous communities. It also outlines the importance and benefits of an Advance Care Plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, such as the importance of kinship, country, passing on culture to future generations and keeping families strong.

Palliative Care Northern Territory (PCNT) President (2021), Jonathan Dodson-Jauncey, guides viewers through the video, outlining the importance and benefits of an Advance Care Plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People may find content in this film upsetting.

Key learnings from the video

  • Solid partnerships with longevity
  • Local needs are what drive processes
  • Community initiatives and encourages conversation
  • Ensuring clear communication with supporting explanation
  • Clear differentiation of choices using different scenarios
  • Active use of interpreters to support families
  • Ensuring correct family members are informed of end-life-wishes
  • Allowing for and supporting changes and flexibility
  • Ensuring the right people have copies of the Advance Care Plan.

Acting as a companion video, 'Finishing Up – Advance Care Plans on Groote Eylandt' offers additional learnings and can be found here. It focuses on the people’s journey on Groote Eylandt and the importance of making Advance Care Plans about their ‘final days’ with health staff, family and friends.

PCA Media Release - New video for health workers illustrates culturally safe advance care planning for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities


It is important to know that the above are resources do not act as a legal document or an Advance Care Plan / Advance Care Personal Plan / Aged Care Directive. For additional information relating to advance care planning, please speak to your health professional, visit the Advance Care Planning Australia website  or call the advance care planning advisory service on 1300 208 582, 9 am – 5 pm (AEST) Monday to Friday.

People should always consult healthcare or legal professionals for advice about their specific circumstances, including their state or territory's legislative requirements.

Other Resources

PCA Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Palliative Care Resources