Compassionate Communities Advocate Wins Citizen of the Year

6 months ago

The Great Southern team has partnered with the City of Albany on an innovative Compassionate Communities project under the umbrella of the national "Greater Choice for At Home Palliative Care Measure". An important component of this initiative is raising community awareness and encouraging community dialogue about death, dying and loss. In a clear demonstration of the City's commitment to this important subject the City of Albany named Kate Thomas, co-founder of Albany's Death Cafe, as its Citizen of the Year at this year's Australia Day celebrations.

Kate, who is a recently retired nurse and funeral celebrant, co-founded the Death Cafe five years ago with Irene Montefiore. Since then they have facilitated monthly get-togethers for people who want to discuss death, dying and grief. Importantly, through this work Kate is an advocate for advance care planning which the Compassionate Communities project is championing.

When putting together the EOI to the Department of Health for the Greater Choice in At Home Palliative Care Measure, Lesley Pearson, Great Southern Regional Manager approached Dennis Wellington, Mayor of the City of Albany to partner in the project. Gaining this commitment from the Mayor from the outset of the project has allowed co-design and co-ownership of the project to the extent that a Compassionate Communities project team member is co-located at the City of Albany. A senior City of Albany Executive sits on the Compassionate Communities Steering Committee and the City is, among other things, developing a range of community engagement activities focused on death, dying and grief through its community services teams. Annmaree Lynch, the Compassionate Communities Project Officer at the City of Albany, has engaged with all levels of the organisation to raise awareness of the project. Recently City of Albany Councillors and staff have completed surveys to provide baseline information on their awareness of, and comfort levels with, end of life matters including advance care planning which will be used to inform future initiatives.

Given that Annmaree only commenced at the City of Albany at the end of May 2018 it is impressive that the City has taken on board its community ambassadorial role for the project so emphatically. By naming Kate as Albany's Citizen of the Year specifically for her Death Cafe work the City of Albany has publicly reinforced its commitment to bringing the taboo topic of death and dying into the public arena.

As a result of the project there is broader community awareness of the Death Cafe and the importance of dialogue about end of life matters including advance care planning as well as greater awareness among City of Albany Councillors and staff about end of life matters and the importance of broadening community supports for people at the end of life and those caring for them.

WA Primary Health Alliance is also funding the development of an Aged Friendly Charter within the City of Albany. The Charter will be guided by the King's Fund paper "Making our health and care systems fit for an ageing population". Through this collaboration with the City of Albany, WA Primary Health Alliance is better able to engage with community and consumers as well as providers to understand and meet the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged people. The overall objective is to ensure the delivery of the right services, at the right time in the right place.