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Aboriginal staff and students – support at school

This page looks at how grief after a student's traumatic death can affect Aboriginal people. 

Grief is a normal response to the loss of someone we care about or love. Everyone grieves in their own way.

How people respond to a student’s death varies between communities.

Many Aboriginal people call grief Sorry Business.

Connect with Elders

Try and take time to connect with Elders and other respected Aboriginal people.

Communities affected by a lot of suicide deaths

Aboriginal people are more likely to have been affected by suicide at a young age. This is due to high suicide rates in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.

This exposure can make suicide seem a ‘normal’ way of coping with problems. You can help people by encouraging them to:

  • reflect on connections to life
  • find more helpful coping strategies.

Support for Aboriginal staff

If you have Aboriginal staff, you can contact the Aboriginal Education team on education.aboriginalservices [at] sa.gov.au – all sectors are welcome to contact this team.

Aboriginal staff often work alone or in isolation. They might need a different level of support to non-Aboriginal staff.

Remind staff about their leave and other entitlements.

Support room for Aboriginal students

The support room is a safe space where Aboriginal students of all ages can come together to receive and offer support. It allows them time to reflect on their loss.

If possible, have Aboriginal staff coordinate and supervise the room. They can relate to the Aboriginal students. They can link them to community support and appropriate services.

Find out how to set up a support room.

If the student’s death happened on or near the school grounds

Ceremonies and grieving

At first, do not expect staff to go near the location of the student’s death. Wait until there has been some ceremonial grieving or cleansing of the site. Each community has different ways to observe this.