Sorry Business

In this article for Reconciliation Week, Michael J. Evans discusses the term, Sorry Business.

Michael is a proud Indigenous man, with lifelong disabilities, identifies as a Torres Strait Islander, uses a wheelchair for mobility, and is a Service Manager at one of Yooralla’s residential accommodation services.

Sorry Business is an element of Aboriginal culture that is a source of much confusion and misunderstanding for many non-Aboriginal people and service providers.

Where the loss of an immediate family, extended family or community member occurs, this is generally referred to as Sorry Business. Aboriginal people are expected to follow their cultural responsibilities and obligations such as attending funerals and observing bereavement protocols.

  • Sorry Business protocols may include prohibition or deferment of any planned consultations, meetings or activities and those working with Aboriginal people, organisations and communities should respect this protocol during the period of grief.
  • Assumptions should not be made about the presumed “closeness” or relationship of a person to the deceased, in appreciating the necessity of their participation in sorry business*.
  • This latter point may directly relate to immediate or extended family responsibilities regarding funeral arrangements.
  • In some cases, distress is caused where Aboriginal people are “unable to fulfil their bereavement obligations*.
  • Further, it is a sad fact that Aboriginal people attend more funerals than non-Aboriginal people due to lower life expectancy rates.

In many Aboriginal communities it is prohibited to use the name of the deceased person. When reference is made to the deceased person they are usually referred to by a different name

  • Life expectancy - Aboriginal Australians continue to be the most disadvantaged group in Australia with an average life expectancy 17 years shorter than that of the non-Aboriginal population. The demand for disability and aged care services for Aboriginal people is likely to increase substantially over the coming years, reflecting the increase in the Aboriginal population as a whole.

Michael J. Evans

taum akadar

(pride in self)

About the Author

Michael J. Evans a proud Indigenous man, with lifelong disabilities, identifies as a Torres Strait Islander and uses a wheelchair for mobility. Michael is also a Service Manager at one of Yooralla’s residential accommodation services.

Michael is recognised as an Elder in many Aboriginal communities across western NSW and has over 20 years of experience as a formal mentor to Aboriginal leaders working in identified management positions in the NSW public service. Michael has over 30 years of experience as a wheelchair user and has provided formal advocacy and informal mentoring for persons with disabilities for over 50 years.

Michael has over 40 years of experience in senior and middle management roles including over 17 years employment with the NSW public service where he held senior positions such as Director Disability & Home Care Services in western NSW and over 15 years employment with Telstra where he held management positions such as Manager Corporate Services in regional Victoria.

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