In Conversation : Death & Dying

“Our inspirational dream is that every individual, community and service provider has the knowledge and capacity to do death well.”

Zenith Virago, Natural Death Care Centre

Bring an open mind and an open heart to a day of conversation about dying and death. Many of us don’t contemplate our deaths let alone prepare for our own or a loved one’s death. By generating conversation and discussion about death we improve our chance of experiencing a healthy bereavement, a natural grieving process, rather than one fraught with regret, fear or guilt. This will be an uplifting and gentle day as we cover a range of topics by industry experts in order to understand the transition from wellness through illness, palliative care, dying, grief and ultimately being informed of the choices that are legally ours to make.

Join us for a day of talks, a delicious lunch, and a gentle dose of humour, as we discover the legal, practical, realistic, emotional and sacred choices we can make about life and death.

Speakers include:

MC Jean Kittson, Patron of Palliative Care Nurses

Zenith Virago, Natural Death Care Centre

Petrea King, Quest for Life Foundation

Nikki Gemmell, Author

Linda Hansen, Executive Officer Palliative Care NSW

Mary Bryant, Manager of Pastoral Care, Mater Hospital

Jenny Briscoe-Hough, Founder of Tender Funerals and Coordinator of Port Kembla Community Centre

Caroline Baum, journalist, broadcaster and author of Only, A Singular Memoir

Shayne Higson, spokesperson for Go Gentle Australia and Director of Dying With Dignity (NSW).

Includes lunch by Hatrick Catering. Freshly roasted plunger coffee by Toby’s Estate Coffee. A selection of books will be offered for sale by The Constant Reader bookshop, eftpos facilities available.


Jean Kittson

Jean Kittson is a performer and scriptwriter for stage, television, radio, magazines and newspapers. Jean is the Patron of Palliative Care Nurses Australia. Jean has been a regular columnist with New Weekly, Sunday Telegraph, the Sydney Morning Herald - Sydney Magazine, Inspire Magazine, the Readers Digest Health Smart magazine and The Hoopla. She is the author of Tongue Lashing, published by Penguin and her latest book YOU’RE STILL HOT TO ME was published by Pan Macmillan Publishers Australia in 2014. She is a regular guest on ABC 702 radio drive programme, THANK GOD IT’S FRIDAY. Jean was a founding Director of the National Cord Blood Bank, the inaugural Chair of the Australian Gynecological Cancer Foundation (AGCF) and a founding Ambassador for Ovarian Cancer Australia. She is currently an Ambassador for The Macular Disease Foundation, Northcott Disability Services, The Raise Foundation, Taldumande Youth Services and the Australian Gynecological Cancer Foundation. She is the Patron of Junction Works and most recently she has been appointed the Patron of Palliative Care Nurses Australia.

Mary Bryant

Mary Bryant BSW, MMgt Grad Dip Adult Ed has worked as a social worker, lecturing and counselling for thirty years. Mary is currently the Manager of Pastoral Care at the Mater Hospital North Sydney . In her work she supports people who have been diagnosed with cancer, who are experiencing significant health challenges and who are dying. Mary also shares psycho-spiritual reflections on her website and has a private practice at St Leonard's where she offers counselling, specialising in loss and grief. Mary is passionate about normalising reactions to grief which are too often misdiagnosed as anxiety disorders. She has worked extensively with adolescents who have experienced grief and has noticed how often they are misunderstood and misdiagnosed. She believes the human spirit is capable of extraordinary things when it is supported to be its truest self.

Jenny Briscoe-Hough

Jenny is the driving force behind Tender Funerals and she brings decades of service in the community development field to her multi-faceted role as Director, General Manager and family liaison contact. She has had extensive training and experience in all aspects of death advocacy, body care, ceremonial and funeral advice. She is a Member of Natural Death Care and Coordinator of Port Kembla Community Centre.

Petrea King

Petrea King N.D., D.R.M., D.B.M., Dip.Cl.Hyp., I.Y.T.A. Petrea King is the Founding Director and CEO of the Quest for Life Foundation. She is the author of eight best-selling books including ‘Quest for Life’ and ‘Your Life Matters’ and has recorded a dozen meditation CDs. Petrea provides a practical and spiritual perspective in the challenging arenas of life including facing mortality, grief, loss and trauma. Our changing world demands a robust version of spirituality and Petrea is well versed in articulating that for individuals, groups and the media. She makes the invisible world accessible and is able to shed light and wisdom on living a meaningful life in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Zenith Virago

Zenith Virago, Deathwalker, has spent the past 20 years working with death and dying, she has supported individuals and their family and friends in the preparation & integration of the dying process including giving practical, legal and spiritual care and holding funeral ceremonies. She delves deeply into the sacred mystery that is life, love and death. With a disarming honesty and simplicity, Zenith guides and encourages people to prepare for and embrace the reality of death in the fullness of life. Appreciating that not only is it our birth rite to die, when it comes, it is a powerful opportunity for change, and the most transformational experience of our lifetime. Zen is the founder of the Natural Death Centre, and co-author of The Intimacy of Death & Dying, (Allen & Unwin 2009). She is also the subject of the 2015 Zen and the Art of Dying, a contemporary documentary by Broderick Fox, USA.

Linda Hansen

Linda has been with Palliative Care NSW for over 10 years. Prior to that she worked as a consultant with a range of clients including Palliative Care Australia. Linda worked for Carers Australia for some years and before that was an employee of the Commonwealth Public Service in Canberra. Linda has been completely seduced by Palliative Care and has a passion for improving access to quality care for everyone. She often jokes that once you’re in palliative care – you’re in for good! Linda has a broad range of skills that include governance, policy and strategic planning. Her current focus is on community capacity building and building compassionate cities around end of life care. Linda has a Bachelor of Arts  in social sciences and a reasonable capacity to hold a tune.

Shayne Higson

Shayne Higson is spokesperson and stakeholder liaison for Go Gentle Australia, a not-for-profit organisation established by Andrew Denton in mid 2016. She is also a current director of Dying With Dignity (NSW). Before becoming involved in the campaign for voluntary euthanasia law reform, Shayne was a photographic artist and someone who usually expressed her political opinions through her visual art. Although she has always believed in the principle of dying with dignity, it was following the death of her mother in late 2012 from an aggressive brain cancer that Shayne became passionate and vocal about the need for law reform. Just prior to joining the team at Go Gentle Australia, Shayne ran as the lead NSW Senate candidate for the Voluntary Euthanasia Party (VEP) in the 2016 Federal Election. This was her third election campaign and she was also the driving force behind the registration of the first state branch of the Voluntary Euthanasia Party in early 2014 and its State Convenor until July 2016. Shayne is dedicated to providing a voice for the thousands of families and carers who have watched loved ones suffer unnecessarily at the end of their terminal illness.

Caroline Baum

Caroline Baum is a respected  journalist and broadcaster and the author of ONLY: A Singular memoir (Allen &Unwin). Her writing has been published in major national publications as well as in two anthologies: My Mother, My Father: On Losing a Parent  and Rebellious Daughters. In 2015 she was awarded the Hazel Rowley Fellowship for biography.

Nikki Gemmell

Nikki Gemmell is the best-selling author of thirteen novels, including the international bestseller, The Bride Stripped Bare, and four works of non-fiction.  Her books have been translated in 22 languages. Her new book, After, is a fiercely brave, poignant and powerful memoir which Nikki has written in an attempt to understand the ‘death of choice’ of her mother.