OBJECTIVES: This article reports on a culturally appropriate process of development of a smoke-free workplace policy within the peak Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Organisation in Victoria, Australia. Smoking is acknowledged as being responsible for at least 20% of all deaths in Aboriginal communities in Australia, and many Aboriginal health workers smoke. METHODS: The smoke-free workplace policy was developed using the iterative, discursive and experience-based methodology of Participatory Action Research, combined with the culturally embedded concept of 'having a yarn'. RESULTS: Staff members initially identified smoking as a topic to be avoided within workplace discussions. This was due, in part, to grief (everyone had suffered a smoking-related bereavement). Further, there was anxiety that discussing smoking would result in culturally difficult conflict. The use of yarning opened up a safe space for discussion and debate, enabling development of a policy that was accepted across the organisation. CONCLUSIONS: Within Aboriginal organisations, it is not sufficient to focus on the outcomes of policy development. Rather, due attention must be paid to the process employed in development of policy, particularly when that policy is directly related to an emotionally and communally weighted topic such as smoking.