The Palliative Care Packages program has been established to address a strong need, especially for those who find themselves away from family and familiar surroundings during the last part of their journey.
Each package includes a handmade blanket, a notebook for recording their stories in words or pictures, an Aboriginal shawl, a beanie and a mask. In future, organisers hope to include a canvas and paints so people can paint their stories, as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander music.
Coordinating the project is Sally FitzGerald, the ACT councillor on NATSICC, who said the packs would be delivered to any First Nations person, regardless of their religious beliefs, who was in the end stages of their life.
“These packs are very important to our people because many of our people live off country and away from family. Having one of these packs gives them a sense of belonging, of being cared for by their own people and that they are part of the wider Aboriginal community,” she said.
“The health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is trailing behind the rest of Australia and our people are more often in hospital.
“It is expected that the number of First Nations people aged over 60 will more than double in the next 10 years and we want to be able to support and assist our elders.”
John Lochowiak, NATSICC chair and manager of Indigenous Services at Centacare, said the packages were proving a great comfort for local Aboriginal people in palliative care in Adelaide.
“The packages are really important, especially when a lot of people we are supporting come from remote areas and quite often their families are dealing with a number of other things so it’s hard for them to get to the city to visit,” he said.
“When the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry representative or volunteer delivers the package that is special too as it’s a visit for the person who is in palliative care and gives them someone to talk to.
“Quite often they will go back again and again to see them because they realise the person may not be getting a lot of visitors.”
Mr Lochowiak said providing a notebook in the package was a wonderful way for the person to record their cultural traditions and stories, as well as outlining any last wishes about their funeral to avoid family disputes.
“For example, if an elder hasn’t had the opportunity to pass on their cultural knowledge and information to the younger people, that goes with them when they pass.
“It’s something we can all relate to – when we lose someone close to us we sometimes think after we should have asked them more questions.”
On a personal note, Mr Lochowiak said his own uncle Johnny Walker who died recently in Adelaide away from his home in regional SA, would have been overjoyed to receive a package.
“He dearly loved the Otherway Centre and by getting a package with a blanket that was knitted by some of the ladies there would have meant something to him.
“Our mob really appreciate things like that.”
Mr Lochowiak said while women at the Otherway Centre were busy knitting items for the packages they would welcome assistance from the wider community and encouraged any knitting groups in the Church to consider becoming involved in the project.
The palliative care packages follow on from a successful program run by the Otherway Centre to provide toiletry bags to those in need who are in hospital. The bags contain a shaver, shaving cream, deodorant, brush, comb, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste and pyjamas.
To obtain a palliative care package for a loved one contact Sally FitzGerald on 0422 066 080 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on donating or knitting items for the packages visit www.natsicc.org.au/palliative-care-packages
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