Conversations about Death and Dying

Bring an open mind and an open heart to a day of conversation about dying and death. Industry experts share their experience and knowledge in understanding the spectrum of emotions and situations from wellness through illness, palliative care, sudden or traumatic death, dying, and bereavement and grief. This day, imbued with a gentle dose of humour, covers the legal, practical, realistic, emotional and sacred choices we can make about life and death. This is a day of conversation about hope and resilience and ultimately a day of connection and empowerment to make informed choices.

Ticket price includes all talks, morning tea and lunch.

A selection of textile artworks by Ro Cook will be exhibited during the day.

Thank you to our supporters : The Constant Reader Bookshop, Olive and Moss, Picaluna Funerals, HammondCare

Guest Speaker: Maryanne Larkin

Maryanne Larkin is a passionate supporter of Charlie Teo and his brave approach to surgery and brain cancer research. Maryanne is the wife of Gavin Larkin founder of RUOK? An organisation committed to promoting connection to prevent suicide. In 2010 Gavin and their son Gus were both diagnosed with cancer in the space of one month. The family went on to undergo months of treatments and surgery whilst Gavin continued his work on RUOK. In 2011 Gavin lost his battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Two years later Maryanne lost their son Gus to brain cancer. Along with Josie (17yrs) and Van (12) Maryanne continues to support brain cancer research as she would love to envisage a world where no child ever has to go through what her son Gus endured. The family story can be viewed on the ABC’s Australian Story- Beyond RUOK.

Guest Speaker: Michael Barbato

Michael entered Palliative Care in 1989 following 17 years as a General Physician in rural NSW. He retired from clinical practice in 2014 and is now doing research into the experience of unconsciousness in dying patients. Michael has directed palliative care services in NSW and the ACT, did regular locum work for the Northern Territory Palliative Care Service and has done voluntary work for a Cambodian NGO that served the sick and dying. He has a long-standing interest in death literacy and non-ordinary states of consciousness, including end-of-life dreams and visions. He is the author of 3 books, Caring for the Living and the Dying, Reflections of a Setting Sun and Midwifing Death and has completed one unit of Pastoral Care training. For the past five years he and his wife Ann have run a correspondence course for members of the community and healthcare workers on the art of midwifing death. Ann and Michael have four adult children and four grandchildren. His interest include living sustainably, walking, swimming, table tennis, mushroom forays, tending his bonsais and growing vegetables.

Guest Speaker: Chris Basten (M.Psychol; Ph.D.)

Chris Basten is a Clinical Psychologist with particular interests in health psychology, adjustment to illness and injury and cognitive behaviour therapy. After receiving degrees in psychology from the University of NSW then University of Sydney, he worked for 15 years at Westmead Hospital in consultation-liaison psychiatry. While there, he regularly worked with people in the cancer, palliative care and trauma wards. For the 10 years since then he has focused on his own practice and on training other health professionals. He has casual lecturer roles at a number of universities and honorary appointments with Macquarie University and the University of Technology Sydney.  

Facilitator: Margaret Rice

Margaret is a journalist by training and lives in Sydney, Australia. She has written news and features and worked as a sub-editor for Australian Associated Press (AAP), as medical writer for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian, and as feature writer for The Good Weekend. Her blog is designed to help start the conversation about death. Margaret’s book A Good Death, A compassionate and practical guide to the end of life will be released by Murdoch Books in May 2019. “Brilliant. Comprehensive, practical, sympathetic but honest and beautifully written. I loved it” - Ken Hillman, Professor of Intensive Care, UNSW and author of A Good Life to the End.

Guest Speaker: Kathryn Breusch

Kathryn has been working the in the Funeral Industry for the past 14 years.  Initially her role was that of the Funeral Celebrant, crafting and interpreting the wishes of families into words and ceremony.  More recently she has expanded her expertise to become a funeral director and through this broader role she is able to walk side-by-side with families in her community, through the difficult and varied decisions that need to be made when a loved one dies.   In her work as an independent Funeral Director and Celebrant she has experienced the difference that is made when a family have well-communicated wishes in place.  It is her desire to pass her wisdom back to her community so that they are better informed and in command at a most challenging time

Guest Speaker: Kelly Arthurs

Kelly is a Palliative Care Clinical Nurse Consultant at HammondCare, with over 15 years of experience working in palliative care as a Clinician and Educator. Kelly has provided symptom management and end of life care in various settings including: specialist palliative care units, community care, aged care, and private and public hospital consultation. More recently Kelly’s career has focussed on Advance Care Planning, and she is currently working part time on a National Project, funded by the department of health called The Advance Project which is designed to assist Australian general practices to implement a team based approach to initiating advance care planning and palliative care into every day clinical practice. Kelly is the clinical lead on the Hammondcare project commissioned by the Sydney North Primary Health Network to improve end of life care in residential aged care in Northern Sydney. This model of care is being implemented in other areas in Australia

Facilitator: Simon Thomsen

Simon is publisher, editor, journalist, restaurant critic, mentor, champion of change, MC, Swans fan and is looking forward to having a conversation about grief, hope and resilience.

MC: Vashti Whitfield

Vashti Whitfield is an International speaker, documentary maker, author and Senior Associate with Coaching Australia and Coach Global. Whilst the majority of her time is spent as a transformational facilitator, performance coach and presenter, Vashti also works as an educator, speaker and guide in helping individuals and medical professionals in learning how to approach, understand and process loss, grief, death and dying. As a faculty member of The School of Life, Vashti also lectures on Matters of Life and Death - inviting her students to explore the philosophical, spiritual and emotional relationship between death, dying, grief and loss. She is most widely recognised however for turning her own personal grief and loss into the award winning feature film documentary Be Here Now in 2017 - which chronicles her late husband, the actor Andy Whitfield and his family’s journey with cancer and the battle to overcome fear, loss and death. Vashti currently travels around the world speaking and facilitating, using their poignant film as a tool to illustrate the human beings resistance, reaction and response to loss, whilst simultaneously teaching her audiences and students how to convert their loss into a meaningful and powerful legacy.

Artist: Ro Cook

During our day of talks we are exhibiting a selection of works by artist Ro Cook. Absent Friends is an exhibition of textile artworks that connects the themes of death and friendship. Ro presents unique works representing individual friends from a long career in film and the art world. The exhibition is also a response to the modern sanitized, western way of dealing with death, and investigates the bond of textiles as the uniting element in all communities. Ro Cook is a well-known Sydney artist specialising in print making. She also has a background in design for film and television. In the last 20 years she has created artworks using textiles with natural dyes, printing and stitching. She is a keen researcher of the culturally specific use of textiles, specialising in the Asia Pacific region. Cook lectures in Visual Art, Design and Artisanal practice.