What are Compassionate Communities?
Compassionate Communities are communities where everyday people play a stronger role in the care and support of people as they age and at end of life.
These communities are all about improving the end of life experience for people by creating and mobilising local networks, groups and services to be more conscious, aware and equipped to offer support wherever and whenever it is needed.
A key aspect to introducing any compassionate community initiative is encouraging community members to increase their death literacy. This means people can better understand and be comfortable talking about about death, dying and care and can adapt their behaviour to be active in supporting others at end of life.
This approach builds capacity within individual communities to generally support others. Not only those who are at end of life, but also those who are ageing, or living with a disability, or who have a life-limiting condition.
A globally recognised movement, the number of Compassionate Communities is on the rise in many countries around the world, including Australia.
“A city is not merely a place to work and access services but equally a place to enjoy support in the safety and protection of each other’s company, in schools, workplaces, places of worship and recreation, in cultural forums and social networks anywhere within the city’s influence, even to the end of our days.” — Alan Kellehear, the Compassionate City Charter.
Compassionate Communities WA Network
Palliative Care WA is committed to encouraging and supporting current and emerging compassionate communities across our State. One of the ways we do that is by facilitating the Compassionate Communities WA Network. Hosted by Palliative Care WA, the network meets online via Zoom throughout the year. Our intention is to provide a space to:
- share experiences and resources
- discuss ideas and innovations
- provide support to each other
- encourage new compassionate communities.
This is an open forum, and we encourage anyone with an interest in compassionate communities to join in. Whether you are still learning, have just started or have your compassionate community up and running, you are most welcome. Contact us on email@example.com to find out how to join the next meeting.
To find out more and access a range of useful links and documents go to the Compassionate Communities Resources page.
What’s happening in WA?
Creating a compassionate community doesn’t mean you need a formal structure, committee or funding. The basis of any compassionate community is engendering a culture where people care for and support one another. From there you can keep it simple – for example creating a Facebook group to find volunteers to support someone who is in need.
There are examples of compassionate communities right across WA. Some are large – encompassing a local government area, city or region. Many others are small and more informal – programs and initiatives within individual communities, suburbs or local neighbourhoods. The list below is growing all the time. If you are involved in a compassionate communities program and would like it included on this webpage, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Perth Metropolitan Area
Through the Department of Health’s Compassionate Communities 2022 Local Government Grant Program, the City of Stirling received funding to create a more compassionate community. This project spans over two years and ends in March 2024.
As part of this project, the City of Stirling will be running workshops to inform, prepare and support the community. These workshops will focus on topics such as support for carers, understanding grief or making plans that cover future care, lifestyle, health and finances (also known as Advance Care Planning). Specific community groups will be targeted but if you would like to be included in a workshop, please contact the City of Stirling.
Darlington Compassionate Community
This emerging and community-led initiative taps into the wellspring of compassion within the community and responds to needs that arise. Through celebration, playfulness, gathering, connection and solution-making this initiative aims to foster a community that intentionally cares for and supports its members.
Kalamunda Compassionate Communities has been a two-year project, after a successful grant submission saw the City of Kalamunda receive funding from the Department of Health to establish a Compassionate Community initiative. The project was launched in the City of Kalamunda through meaningful and ongoing collaboration between project partners: the Kalamunda Hospital Palliative Care Unit and Day Hospice, palliative care patients and their families, a compassionate community champion, visual artist, a number of end-of-life service organisations, including Ambulance Wish WA and Amana Living’s No One Dies Alone, as well as a number of community organisations and individuals.
The establishment of Kalamunda Compassionate Communities was undertaken in three stages. The focus of stage one was awareness raising, hosting meaningful conversations and breaking down the stigma of discussing death and dying. This section of the project included awarding an Artist in Residency to operate from the Kalamunda Hospital’s Palliative Care Unit creating a series of portraits of patients, their visitors and staff to capture the lives and legacies of those in the ward. The Arist, Eleisha Pirouet, also held two community art workshops to discuss Compassionate Communities and the public health approach to end of life, while participants created individual paintings as well as a larger mural depicting the Banksia, chosen as a symbol for life and death, representing the natural circles of life through the flower’s life cycle. The free workshops attracted a diverse range of community members with unique perspectives, discussing legacy, death and dying from an optimistic perspective that celebrates life.
The second stage of the initiative was a Compassionate Community Forum: Growing Kalamunda – “Living Well, Ending Well” that took place on Dying to Know You Day in August 2023. The forum showcased a number of partners, including services, a guest feature from WA Australian of the Year Professor Samar Aoun, community experts, allied health professionals, charity and not-for-profit organisations who work in the area of connecting communities and creating a culture of caring communities. This event was a celebration of life, ageing, and connecting communities with more than 70 community members and representatives from other local governments attending to learn more and collectively plan the way forward for the next stage of community action.
The portraits and mural were displayed in the project’s ‘Legacy Portraits’ exhibition on display throughout August and at the forum. More than 300 people visited the 16-day exhibition.
The next step is to work with community members to establish a support network between their surrounding neighbours.
The Lasting Words project allows people who are approaching the end of their life to have their stories, thoughts and special memories captured. Trained Lasting Words volunteers visit people in their homes or in residential aged care, record their conversations and transcribe their stories. While based in the Perth Metropolitan area, there are plans to expand Lasting Words into regional WA.
Young Dementia Network WA
This network provides peer support for people living with younger onset dementia, their care partners, and families. Membership is strictly limited to people living with younger onset dementia (diagnosed under the age of 65) and their primary care partner. The network runs social activities and events and provides a private Facebook page where members can post tips, share useful information, workshops and events and make comments. Download this flyer for the Young Dementia Network for more information.
Leave a Legacy Project – Compassionate Communities 2022 Local Government Grant Program
The Leave a Legacy Project aims to build the capacity of the community to empower residents to understand and embrace a Compassionate Communities approach to end of life and palliative care. This grant will fund a series of ‘community courses’ or workshops targeting specific community groups and demographics in the community. These community courses will provide opportunities for residents to be well-informed, well-prepared and well-supported in the end of life area and in times of loss, ageing, dying and grief. For further information contact Beth Jasas, 0439 990 006 or email Beth.Jasas@stirling.wa.gov.au
Great Southern Region
The City of Albany has been delivering a Compassionate Communities project in partnership with WA Primary Health Alliance under the Australia Government’s Primary Health Networks Program. The aim is to encourage communities to play a much stronger role in the care of people at end of life, and their families and carers through illness, dying, death and bereavement. Under this project they have developed a Compassionate Albany Charter.
South West Region
Bereavement Support Program – Busselton Hospice Care
Provides a range of bereavement support options for people receiving palliative care, those caring for a person receiving palliative care or anyone struggling with a past or recent bereavement. These include face to face or online one-to-one support as well as a variety of group support sessions, all with trained volunteer members of the community.
Carer Education Program – Busselton Hospice Care
This program provides some preparation for the practical, physical and emotional demands of caring for a dying person at home. From several webinars, the program provides knowledge and practical skills of caring for someone at home who is very sick and may possibly die. It also provides strategies for dealing with common end of life symptoms, medications and communicating with health professionals, all while paying close attention to self-care and wellbeing.
Complimentary Therapy Program – Busselton Hospice Care
This program provides a range of complementary therapy treatments for people receiving palliative care, those caring for a person receiving palliative care, or anyone struggling with a past or recent bereavement.
Home Visiting Program – Busselton Hospice Care
Trained volunteers provide emotional, social and practical support for people with a palliative diagnosis in their own home as well as their care network of family and friends.
River Angels – Margaret River
Since 2011 the River Angels has supported families affected by cancer who live in Margaret River. Local volunteers help with day-to-day living, assisting with cooking, cleaning, babysitting, gardening, ironing and handyman chores.
Run by volunteers, this network’s purpose is that every person, every family and every community in the South West of Western Australia knows what to do when someone is caring, dying or grieving. They provide a range of resources for families and health professionals, events and activities to support this purpose. They are currently working with the City of Bunbury to develop a City Charter. The network supports local death cafes which are run every month in Bunbury and works with Palliative Care WA to run Advance Care Planning Workshops in the region.
The Compassionate Connectors Program is a collaboration between the South West Compassionate Communities Network, WA Country Health Service, palliative care services and general practice. The program provides practical and social support to people living in the south-west with a chronic or life-limiting illness. Trained volunteer Connectors work with clients and family carers to identify additional social and practical support needs using people’s existing networks as well as members of the local community. The support provided is tailored to individual needs but may include helping with shopping, transport to appointments, gardening, finding suitable social activities, walking pets, and visitors for a cuppa and a chat. To find out more about the program or to get involved visit their website.
Volunteers Program – Busselton Hospice Care
Palliative care volunteers provide emotional, social and practical support to people nearing the end of their life, as well as their care network of family and friends. Our volunteers are trained to support people from all walks of life without judgement of their attitudes, values or beliefs.