South West Compassionate Communities Forum successful

Community leaders, service providers, researchers and politicians were among the 180 attendees at the first statewide South West Compassionate Communities Network Forum (SWCCN) held recently in Bunbury.

Compassionate Communities is an international movement which recognises and promotes the concept that care for one another at times of crisis and loss is everyone’s responsibility.

Key themes were how to encourage grief literacy and cultural change in the complex and often uncomfortable subjects of death, grief and loss. Personal stories, research and practical advice were shared. 

A wide range of speakers put forward their perspectives and experts from Sydney, Melbourne and Canada joined the livestream to present best-practice data and resources such as toolkits and practical advice.  

Professor Samar Aoun (Chair, SWCCN) and head of Palliative Care Research at Perron Institute and La Trobe University, presented an evidence-based summary of developments in the sector. She highlighted a pertinent point from Professor Allan Kellehear’s presentation: “Death is a social event with a medical component, not a medical event with a social component.” 

Leanne O’Shea (Vice-Chair, SWCCN) further explained, “Life and death work together”, and we must “step into the discomfort to find comfort.” 

Albany Mayor Dennis Wellington shared some of the initiatives implemented in his shire. These included finding out what people need in end of life and bereavement and providing support for these needs using available resources and tools. 

Mayor Wellington also spoke about his personal journey. 

“I hope we get to a stage where we’re not afraid to talk about these topics,” he said. 

CEOs of community-based organisations as well as WA school teachers and families shared their stories and activities to encourage conversations and promote change. 

“Sometimes we have to get over being uncomfortable for the greater good,” said one of the ‘community connectors’.  

“Grieving is one of the most fundamental celebrations of life we can have,” said Hon. Don Punch MLA in his closing address.  

The SWCCN network encouraged attendees (and anyone else interested) to volunteer and support caring, dying, and grieving people. 

The streaming of this forum is available via this link. 

Perron Institute was a sponsor, with the WA Department of Health, South West Development Commission, Palliative Care WA, South West Grief and Loss Centre, William Barrett and Sons, Retravision and Hon. Donald (Don) Punch MLA. 

Well done to the organisers and everyone involved. 

L-R: Albany Mayor Dennis Wellington, Prof Samar Aoun (Chair SWCCN), Prof Steve Wilton and Bunbury Mayor Gary Brennan.