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Australian minority faith leaders from Horn of Africa discuss palliative care

Understanding what matters most

What matters most at the end of life? What does a ‘good death’ in your community look like? Without exception, the presence of spiritual carers and traditional rituals were at the top of the list, seconded only by medical care to prevent suffering at the end, followed by dying at home surrounded by family and friends. Other important elements mentioned were:  assistance with legal concerns, having friends visit to pray or pay their respects and religious music at the end to comfort the dying person.

This may not sound like a traditional end-of-life for many Australians. Or maybe it does. This is what a good death means in some religious minority communities in Victoria.

Starting the conversation

During June and July 2019, Palliative Care Victoria (PCV), in collaboration with the African Australian Multicultural Employment and Youth Services (AAMEYS) in Footscray, organised a series of education sessions to discuss palliative and end-of-life services available to all Victorians.

18 members of Australian minority religious communities originating from Horn of Africa: Eritrean Muslim, Eritrean Christian Orthodox (Tigrinya speaking), Somali, Oromo, Harrar and Bilal community groups participated in the discussions.

What was gained from the experience

For many, there was some familiarity with inpatient palliative care when community members had required this. The range of services provided by the multidisciplinary community based specialist services was new for all. Few had heard of the word ‘hospice’, although two members of the Oromo community had supported a friend and were positive about the experience.

Minority religious groups from the Horn of Africa are proud of the fact that they are tolerant of religious diversity. Cultural traditions unite and supersede religious difference and at end of life, these become more significant.

We appreciate the assistance of AAMEYS staff in organising the sessions and thank them for their cooperation and assistance.

For more information or to contact faith leaders from Horn of Africa groups, please call PCV (phone 03 9662 9644).

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