MercyCare / News / Funeral workshops empower and educate Aboriginal people to deal with grief

Funeral workshops empower and educate Aboriginal people to deal with grief

Due to significant gaps in life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which has resulted from historical systemic racism and exclusion from society, dealing with death is a regular occurrence, with many attending or organising multiple funerals each month.

This is a major challenge for the Aboriginal community and can have a result of continuing to entrench disadvantage for many Aboriginal people. 

MercyCare Aboriginal Consultant Lorraine Woods and Senior Community Member Kathy Quartermaine, attached to Yokai, delivered the workshops in a culturally appropriate manner having the cultural understanding of the community associated with death and dying.  

“Education to increase knowledge on death literacy is designed for the living enabling the individual to make positive decisions regarding their funeral arrangements, to help reduce the emotional and financial burden on family,” Lorraine said.

“This will help remove the tension about not knowing what the person wanted and when the time comes when the person passes away, will allow their family to grieve and remember the person.”

MercyCare Aboriginal Consultant Lorraine Woods (second from right) with workshop participants.

A total of eight workshops took place between May and August 2021, North, South and Central Metropolitan area of Perth. 

“In addition to the cumulative experience of grief, when sorry business cannot be followed according to custom and tradition, it can lead to significant sorrow, which only compounds the grieving,” she said.

“The unknown associated with death and dying can cause a financial burden for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in trying to raise funds to bury their loved ones.

“Families may choose more expensive funeral options, as they are emotionally and physically grieving, not only for the present death but for their loved ones who may have recently passed away. The financial burden increases which is largely due to having to pay for concurrent funerals recently which does not allow for the grieving process to be addressed. 

“The workshops will help remove the ‘taboo’ associated with talking and preparing their funeral which can help to reduce the financial and emotional burden for individuals allowing time for family and the community to grieve.”

The feedback received from the workshop showed that community members valued the sessions and hoped more people would be given the opportunity to attend future yarning circles on Death Literacy.  

A CEO Innovation grant was funded through MercyCare in response to an identified need in the Aboriginal regarding death literacy.

The initiative ties in with MercyCare’s core mission and links to a key Mission Ethos Shaper of Aboriginal Pathway through capacity building of Aboriginal people.